- Sunday’s coordinated bombings are the first since the military defeat of the LTTE in May 2009.
- Sri Lanka’s government promised to compensate the families of victims.
- Sri Lanka has witnessed several communal clashes instigated by Buddhist fundamentalists against Muslims in the last five years.
- People are asking why the government failed to act on a warning it received ten days before the attacks.
- Muslims are just under 10 % of the population, Hindus 12.6 %, Christians over 7 %; Buddhists are 70 per cent of the 21 million population.
Terrorist groups continue to plot possible attacks in Sri Lanka even after 290 people were killed, including foreign nationals, and more than 500 injured in Sunday’s blasts, says the US State Department.
Sunday’s blasts, the worst violence seen since its bloody civil war ended 10 years ago, in churches and luxury hotels in the island nation rocked the entire Southeast Asian region. This morning, Sri Lankan authorities successfully defused another bomb close to Colombo’s main airport. The device was described as a locally manufactured ‘home-made’ pipe bomb.
Revising its travel advisory, the US State Department said terrorists may attack with little or no warning, with possible targets being tourist locations, transportation hubs, shopping malls, hotels, and places of worship, airports and other public areas.
Sri Lanka’s government said it will compensate the families of victims caught up in the attacks on Easter Sunday that left 290 people dead.
Cabinet spokesperson Rajitha Senaratne said the government will pay one million rupees (about US$5,722) to each victim in the attacks. The government will also pay for costs of funeral processions.
Senaratne said “All damaged churches will be completely repaired by the government. As the government, we take the responsibility and we apologize to everyone.”
This announcement comes amid accusations that the ‘government failed to act on a warning it received ten days before’ the atrocity that an Islamist group was preparing an attack.
A leaked memo revealed that police were warned of a potential attack by an Islamist group known as the National Thawahid Jamaath (NTJ). The Indian High Commission in Colombo had also been alerted.
There were little doubts that the NTJ, a little known group which had previously defaced Buddhist statues, would have had the capacity to carry out such a sophisticated and coordinated attack alone.
Experts say transnational Islamists are only known to operate in places like Pakistan, Malaysia and the Philippines. Moreover, experts says its ‘premature’ to speculate on which organizations might have been involved as very little is known about Islamic radicalism in Sri Lanka.
However, no group has claimed responsibility. But the Sri Lankan Defence Minister Ruwan Wijewardene said the ‘terrorist incident’ was carried out by followers of ‘religious extremism’. The Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena said he would seek foreign assistance to track down international terrorist links.
Sirisena said “The intelligence reports indicate that foreign terrorist organizations are behind the local terrorists.”
The president’s office will be declaring a nationwide emergency from midnight. An official statement said the government has decided to gazette the clauses related to prevention of terrorism to emergency regulation and gazette it by midnight. The measure would be confined to dealing with ‘terrorism’ and would not impinge on freedom of expression.
Meanwhile, a forensic crime analyst Ariyananda Welianga said an assessment of the attackers’ body parts collected from the scenes showed that the attacks were coordinated suicide bombings.
Reports say four of the bombs went off roughly at the same time at 8.45 AM with two others coming within 20 minutes. The explosions at the fourth hotel and the house occurred hours later in the afternoon.
Welianga said two people were involved in the attack at the Shangri-La Hotel.
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“One bomber each attacked the Cinnamon Grand and Kingsbury hotels and St Anthony’s Shrine in Colombo, St Sebastian’s Church in the city of Negombo and Zion Church in the city of Batticaloa.”
The police found detonators at the Bastian Mawatha Private Bus stand, 12 of them scattered on the ground and another 75 in a garbage dump nearby.
So far, 24 people have been arrested in connection with the suicide bombs. The Sri Lankan government blocked social media access to prevent ‘wrong information’ from spreading in the country.