Scotland's biggest landowner lost three of his four children in the wave of suicide bombings to hit Sri Lanka on Sunday.

Billionaire Anders Holch Povlsen had only just announced that his family would continue his controversial efforts to re-wild his dozen Highland estates after his own death.

His loss was confirmed as officials in Sri Lanka said they believe the attacks – which killed at least 290 and injured another 500 – were carried out by a local Islamist group.

The terrorists focused their assaults on churches and five-star hotels, suggesting Christians and foreigners were the main targets. 

Sri Lankan authorities said some 30 of the dead were foreign nationals, including eight Britons.

Another 14 foreigners are missing and a further 17 are still in hospital receiving treatment.

A British mother, Anita Nicholson, and her two children Alex and Annabel were among those killed after a suicide bomber blew themselves up at the breakfast buffer of their hotel, the Shangri-La in the Sri Lankan capital, Colombo.

The UK victims also included former firefighter Bill Harrop and his partner Sally Bradley from Manchester, who were on holiday.

Three children of Scotland's biggest landowner Anders Povlsen killed in Sri Lanka attacks

Experts said both the nature of the victims, such as the Holch Povlsen children and local Catholics, and the scale and the sophistication of the operation, meant that Sri Lankan extremists must have had support from the wider global Islamist movement.

Officials blamed the nine bombings, in Colombo and two other cities, on National Thowfeek Jama’ath, a previously low-profile group that has emerged from tensions between Sri Lanka’s majority Buddhist Sinhalese and a Muslim minority.

Amarnath Amarasingam, of London’s Institute for Strategic Dialogue, told the New York Times he believed local extremists would have needed help to carry out the attacks.

He said: “The target selection and attack type make me very sceptical that this was carried out by a local group without any outside involvement. There’s no reason for local extremist groups to attack churches, and little reason to attack tourists.”

Other experts said that the terrorists would have hoped to incite inter-religious tensions by attacking churches.

Sri Lanka ended a decadeslong civil war between Sinhalese Buddhists and Tamil Hindus a decade ago.

However, there were anti-Muslim riots in 2014 and again last year.

Strained community relations are understood to be “ripe” for exploitation by extremists.

It is not clear which of Mr Holch Povlsen’s children died or where they were staying, or whether they were with their parents.

Jesper Stubkier, communications manager for Mr Holch Povlsen’s clothing business, Bestseller, said: “I can confirm three children have been killed.”

Mr Holch Povlsen, 46, a Danish national, owns 220,000 acres of Scotland and, according to Forbes magazine, has a net worth of £6.1 billion.

The family has five country sports estates between Ben Loyal and Eriboll.