Sri Lanka attacks: Death toll soars to 290 after bombings hit churches and hotels

Lorlornyofm
By Lorlornyofm April 22, 2019 07:23

Sri Lanka attacks: Death toll soars to 290 after bombings hit churches and hotels

The death toll in Sri Lanka has soared to 290 after a wave of blasts hit churches and luxury hotels across the country on Sunday.

Police said 24 people had been arrested, but it is not yet known who carried out the attacks.

About 500 people are injured and at least 35 foreigners are among the dead.

The Easter Sunday bombings were the deadliest violence Sri Lanka has witnessed since the end of the country’s civil war in 2009.

Late on Sunday, Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said security services had been “aware of information” of possible attacks but that the information had not been acted upon.

How did the attacks unfold?

The first reports of explosions came at about 08:45 local time (03:15 GMT) with six blasts reported within a small space of time.

Three churches in Negombo, Batticaloa and Colombo’s Kochchikade district were targeted during Easter services and blasts also rocked the Shangri-La, Kingsbury and Cinnamon Grand hotels in the country’s capital.

As police hunted those responsible, two further explosions were reported.

One blast hit near the zoo in Dehiwala, southern Colombo, and an eighth was reported near the Colombo district of Dematagoda during a police raid, killing three officers.

Blast damage at St Sebastian's Church in Negombo
Image captionSt Sebastian’s Church in Negombo suffered severe damage

The air force said an improvised explosive device – a 6ft-long [1.8m] plastic pipe packed with explosives – had been found and disposed of near the country’s main airport in the capital, Colombo.

Police have not provided a breakdown of how many were killed and wounded at each location, Reuters reports.

What’s known about the attackers?

The government said it believes suicide bombs were used in some of the attacks.

It remains unclear who was behind the attacks and no information has been given on the identity of the 24 people arrested.

However, the BBC’s Azzam Ameen in Colombo says the attackers are thought to be part of a “radical extremist Islamist group” according to authorities.

Addressing reports that officials had had prior intelligence of forthcoming attacks, Mr Wickremesinghe said: “We must look into why adequate precautions were not taken. Neither I nor the ministers were kept informed.”

Map showing locations of attacks

Authorities blocked access to social media sites, including Facebook and Whatsapp, to try to stop the spread of misinformation.

Who are the victims?

The vast majority of those killed are thought to be Sri Lankan nationals, including scores of Christians who died at Easter church services.

The ministry of foreign affairs says it believes 36 foreign nationals are among the dead, with most still unidentified at a Colombo mortuary.

The international victims include:

  • At least five British citizens – including two with joint US citizenship
  • Three Danish citizens
  • One Portuguese citizen and six Indian nationals
  • Two engineers from Turkey, according to Turkish news agency Anadolu
  • Two Chinese nationals, according to the China Daily
  • One person from the Netherlands
  • One person from Japan, according to Japanese media citing government sources

How has the world responded?

Pope Francis, in his traditional Urbi et Orbi speech at the Vatican, condemned the attacks as “such cruel violence” targeting Christians celebrating Easter.

A spokesperson for UN Secretary General António Guterres said he was “outraged” by the attacks, and expressed hope that the perpetrators would be “swiftly brought to justice”.

Media captionArchbishop of Colombo: ”A very, very sad day for all of us”

India’s Narendra Modi condemned the attacks as “barbaric” while Pakistan’s leader Imran Khan also offered his “profound condolences” to Sri Lanka.

UK PM Theresa May tweeted that the “acts of violence against churches and hotels in Sri Lanka are truly appalling” and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office updated its travel advice.

US President Donald Trump tweeted “heartfelt condolences” for the “horrible terrorist attacks”.

The US State Department issued a travel warning that said “terrorist groups continue plotting possible attacks”.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand, where deadly mosque attacks killed 50 last month, said “collectively we must find the will and the answers to end such violence”.

Several prominent international monuments, including the Eiffel Tower, were dimmed or lit in Sri Lanka’s colours on Sunday night.

What is Sri Lanka’s recent history?

Sunday’s attacks were the deadliest in Sri Lanka since the end of the country’s civil war in 2009.

The war ended with the defeat of the Tamil Tigers, who had fought for 26 years for an independent homeland for the minority ethnic Tamils.

Between 70,000 and 80,000 people are believed to have died in the conflict.

The nation has seen some sporadic violence since. In March 2018 a state of emergency was declared after members of the majority Buddhist Sinhala community attacked mosques and Muslim-owned properties.

Religion in Sri Lanka

Theravada Buddhism is Sri Lanka’s biggest religious group, making up about 70.2% of the population, according to the most recent census.

St Anthony's Shrine, Kochchikade
Image captionChristians are a small minority in Sri Lanka

It is the religion of Sri Lanka’s Sinhalese majority and is given primary place in the country’s laws.

Hindus and Muslims make up 12.6% and 9.7% of the population respectively.

Sri Lanka is also home to about 1.5 million Christians, according to the 2012 census, the vast majority of them Roman Catholic.

Source:BBC

Lorlornyofm
By Lorlornyofm April 22, 2019 07:23
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