Bloody Easter in Sri Lanka: At least 207 dead in bombings

At least 207 people were killed Sunday in a series of eight attacks on hotels and churches in Sri Lanka, where Easter Mass was celebrated. The authorities arrested seven suspects as a result of these attacks.

Three explosions occurred in St. Anthony’s churches, Colombo; San Sebastián, in Negombo, a city north of the capital, and Zion, located in the city of Batticaloa, on the eastern coast of Sri Lanka.

In addition to the reported attacks in three churches, three hotels in Colombo have been the target of explosions. These are Shangri-La Colombo, Kingsbury Hotel and Cinnamon Grand Colombo. It is not known for the moment whether there are any victims in these institutions.

A seventh explosion was reported in Dehiwela, a town near the capital Colombo. This time, a hotel near the national zoo was targeted.

Finally, an eighth explosion occurred during a police raid on a house in Colobo, killing three members of the security forces.

The toll could be even worse, as there are at least 450 wounded in this wave of attacks of rare violence, according to hospital sources.

These attacks have not been claimed. Thirty-five foreigners are among the victims, the authorities said.

An unnamed source said two of the explosions were carried out by suicide bombers.

The Sri Lankan Catholics, like those of the rest of the world, went Sunday to church for Easter Mass, one of the highlights of the Christian religious year. All the Easter celebrations have been canceled in the country, the archdiocese announced.

Sri Lanka Bombings
Sri Lanka Bombings

The Department of Defense has announced a 12-hour curfew beginning at 6 pm local time.

In addition, the government has declared a blockage of social networks to prevent the dissemination of “incorrect and false information” related to the wave of attacks that have hit the country.

Attacks denounced around the world

The Catholic Church in the Holy Land has denounced the attacks in Sri Lanka.

In a statement issued in Jerusalem, the church claims to pray for the soul of the victims and for a quick recovery of the wounded. “We ask God to inspire terrorists to repent murder and terror. ”

“We also express our solidarity with all Sri Lankans, of all religions and ethnicities,” she added.

During his Easter address, Pope Francis condemned the attacks in Sri Lanka, saying he was on the side of Christians struck by “mourning and sorrow” on Easter Sunday.

British Prime Minister Theresa May has denounced the series of deadly explosions that hit churches and hotels in Sri Lanka as “truly horrendous […] acts of violence.

“We must unite to ensure that no one should ever have to practice their faith in fear,” the leader added on Twitter, sending her “heartfelt condolences” to “all those affected”.

In France, President Emmanuel Macron spoke on Twitter “deep sadness”, in addition to “strongly condemn these heinous acts.”

A little further east, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in a letter of condolence to the Sri Lankan president, “It is shocking that people gathered to celebrate Easter are deliberately targeted by vicious attacks.”

In the United States, President Donald Trump said his administration is “ready to help”.

The President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan denounced the Easter attacks as an assault on all of humanity. He offered his condolences to the families of the victims and to all the Sri Lankan people.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe described the attacks as “cowardly attacks”.

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena said he was shocked by the explosions. For his part, Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera said on Twitter that the attacks had killed “many innocent people” and appeared “a coordinated attempt to bring about killings, chaos and anarchy.”

The head of the national police, Pujuth Jayasundara, had alerted his services 10 days ago by indicating that an Islamist movement called NTJ (National Thowheeth Jama’ath) was planning “suicide bombings against important churches and the Indian High Commission” .

The NTJ became known last year in connection with acts of vandalism against Buddhist statues.

Catholics targeted?

Sri Lanka, which has 21 million inhabitants, has 1.2 million Catholics. Even though they are few in number – 70% of the inhabitants are Buddhists – Catholics are perceived as a unifying force, as they are found among Tamils ​​as well as Sinhalese majority.

Some Christians, however, are frowned upon because they support external investigations into the crimes of the Sri Lankan army against Tamils ​​during the civil war that ended in 2009.
According to the United Nations, the conflict from 1972 to 2009 has made 80,000 to 100,000 deaths.

In its 2018 report on human rights in Sri Lanka, the US State Department noted that some Christian organizations and churches had reported pressure to cease all activity, with the authorities talking to them about “Unauthorized meetings”.

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