Attacks in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka are in a state of mourning as suicide attacks have rocked the country. Many coordinated terrorist suicide attacks happened in various parts of the country.

The attacks took place on 21 April 2019 on the day of Easter Sunday. Churches, luxury hotels and residential areas of the country were targeted by the terrorists.

Chronology of terrorist attacks

The attacks on the day were synchronized with the Easter festivities.

Three Churches were attacked during the Easter services. The Churches were located in Negombo, Batticaloa and Colombo.

Blood stains are seen on the wall and on a Jesus Christ statue at the St Sebastian’s Church after a blast in Negombo, north of Colombo, Sri Lanka, on Sunday (AP Photo)

The Hotels attacked were all in the country’s capital Colombo. The hotels attacked were Shangri-La, Cinnamon Grand, Kingsbury and Tropical Inn.

There were also explosions in residential complexes as well. A housing complex in Dematagoda and a guest house in Dehiwala were also targeted by the attackers.

The time of the attacks indicated that civilians were the main target as the attacks were carried out during the Easter services.

All of the attacks were suicide attacks.

The first attack happened in Catholic Shrine of St. Anthony in Kotahena, Colombo. Fifty people had lost their lives in this attack. The next blast happened in St. Sebastian’s Church in Negombo, which is north of Colombo.

Police officers work at the scene at St. Sebastian Catholic Church, after bomb blasts ripped through churches and luxury hotels on Easter, in Negombo, Sri Lanka April 22, 2019. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

In Colombo, 40 people had died between the attacks in St. Anthony’s and the hotels.

Mass causalities and injuries had happened in these coordinated attacks. It is reported that at least 321 people in these attacks. 500 people are estimated to be injured in the suicide attacks.

It is also reported that about 39 foreign nationals were killed in these attacked. Eight of which are said to be British Nationals.

There are also reports that Dutch and American citizens were also in the list of the causalities. Among other nationals were three Indians, two Turks, one Portuguese citizens.

It is believed that Chinese nationals were also killed but it is not yet confirmed.

There have been condemnation and sympathy for the people effected by the attacks by the international community.

Reaction

British Prime Minister Theresa May had called these attacks as ‘truly appalling’

The Catholic Church in Jerusalem has called for the pray of the souls of the victims and have asked God to bring the people behind the attack in the right lane.

Pope Francis while giving the Easter address has conveyed his sadness over the attacks. He said that the people who lost their lives or were injured were part of a cruel violence.

Prime Minister of New Zealand Jacinda Ardern, who faced a terrorist attack in her country last month, has called these attacks on innocent people as devastating.

United States President Donald Trump has said that the Americans are ready to help the people of Sri Lanka.

United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had confirmed that U.S citizens were also killed in the suicide bombing attacks.

The Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has also condemned these attacks and said that it is yet to be confirmed that whether any Australian had died in the attacks.

The World Jewish Congress has denounced these actions.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has condemned these attacks in the strongest way possible. He has called this an attack on humanity.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Jawad Zarif has also condemned the attacks.

National Thowheeth Jama’ath

There were reports that the Sri Lankan authorities had known prior to the attacks that something was up. This was all confirmed by a minister of Sri Lanka.

Rajitha Senaratne is the health minister of Sri Lanka. The minister was speaking to a press conference and says that there were intelligence memo to the authorities two weeks prior to the attacks that something would happen in the upcoming weeks.

The intelligence memo had warned that a radical Islamist group called National Thowheeth Jama’ath was planning suicide bombs on churches near the Easter period.

An investigation marker is seen near belongings at St. Sebastian Catholic Church, after bomb blasts ripped through churches and luxury hotels on Easter, in Negombo, Sri Lanka April 22, 2019. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

Sri Lanka’s police chief Pujuth Jayasundara had issued an intelligence alert to the top officers that major churches would be attacked by the militants.

The alert was given about 10 days before the attacks. The AFP news agency has seen the documents.

National Thowheeth Jama’ath is a rather newly formed group. They are considered a militant and intolerant bearing ideology organization. It is notorious for being an anti-Buddhist group of people.

The group National Thowheeth Jama’ath had become notorious for defacing statues of Budha in Mawanella in December, 2018.

Few of their members were arrested by the authorities in January for suspicious activities.

There had been some clashes between Christian groups and extremist Buddhist monks in recent times.

There have also been clashed between majority Sinhalese Buddhist community and minority Muslims.

The attacks could have prepared to entice the religious fighting.

Sri Lanka has a history of bloody war. They had been involved in a civil war for about 30 years. These attacks could have been due to their bloody history.

The main victims of the attacks were Catholic churches during the festivity of Easter. This has been labelled by some people as an attack on the entire Catholic community. Some have branded this a way to increase the religious tensions in the world.

Sri Lanka has a demographic of various religions. The attack could be done to increase the hatred among the people and entice a political struggle using these attacks.

On 23 April 2019, Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) had taken responsibility of the attacks in the country.

Sri Lanka and New Zealand

The suicide attacks in Sri Lanka had been labelled a retaliation for the attack in New Zealand last month.

The state minister for defense has also confirmed that the attacks could have been done to the consequences of attack in New Zealand.

The defense minister Ruwan Wijewardene has also called two Islamist organizations behind the attacks.

Two consecutive terrorist attacks had taken place in Christchurch, New Zealand. The terrorist had attacked two mosques during the time of weekly prayer on 15 March.

50 people were killed in the attack and 50 more were injured. The most traumatizing thing was that the terrorist had livestreamed the attack on Facebook.

There were serious aftermath of the attack. The day after the attack, the government of Sri Lanka had declared a state of emergency. The state of emergency had imposed a curfew. The curfew had been imposed from midnight.

The Sri Lankan government also announced that they would hold a national day of mourning the following day.

The social media platforms were also blacked out by the authorities to maintain peace in the region. They had also put restrictions over the internet. Several security places were also put on probation by the authorities.

The Defense Ministry had imposed a curfew on the day of the attack starting from 18:00 local time.

The Ministry of Education also closed the schools for two days. The Stock exchange was also affected by the suicide attacks as the Colombo Stock Exchange had halted the operations on the day of the attack.

The police and the intelligence authorities had carried out operations to apprehend the people behind the attack.

Dozens of people were arrested on accusation of suspicious activities.

There was also political backlash from the politicians of the country. The most criticism came from the former President and the current opposition leader of the country Mahinda Rajapaksa.

He had slammed the government for weakening the intelligence services of the country over the past years.

He had questioned the aftermath if the Prevention of Terrorism Act had been repealed by the government.

He had made a bold allegation on the government that they were part of the attacks as no representatives of them were present in the Mass.

There is also outcry from public figures and civilians to give strict punishment to the people who had being negligent in their duties.

The families and friends can’t bring back their loved ones back but they want justice. They want justice to give their departed one’s souls in peace.

By Jackson Sorbo

Staff writer for the Chicago Morning Star

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