PRIME Minister Justin Trudeau on Sunday said in a statement: “I was shocked and saddened to hear of the devastating terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka, which have claimed the lives of more than two hundred people and injured many hundreds more. On behalf of the Government of Canada and all Canadians, I offer my heartfelt condolences to all those who have lost loved ones and my hope for a full recovery to those injured.
“Canada strongly condemns these heinous attacks on hotels and Christians at prayer in churches. Places of worship are sacred, where all should feel safe and secure. No one should be targeted because of their faith.
“For millions of people around the world, Easter is a time to reflect on Jesus’ message of compassion and kindness—a time to come together with friends and family. We cannot let attacks like these weaken the hope we share.
“To the people of Sri Lanka and other communities affected by today’s attacks: Canada stands with you. We will continue to work with you and other international partners to combat terrorism and violent extremism and to promote greater peace and stability around the world.
“To date, we have no reports of any Canadian citizens being affected. Due to the current situation, our High Commission in Colombo will be closed on April 22. However, Canadians in need of emergency consular assistance should contact email@example.com or call +1 613 996 8885.”
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement: “The United States condemns in the strongest terms the terror attacks in Sri Lanka on Easter morning. Attacks on innocent people gathering in a place of worship or enjoying a holiday meal are affronts to the universal values and freedoms that we hold dear, and demonstrate yet again the brutal nature of radical terrorists whose sole aim is to threaten peace and security.
“The United States offers our deepest condolences to the families and friends of those killed and wishes a quick recovery to all who were injured. While many details of the attacks are still emerging, we can confirm that several U.S. citizens were among those killed. The U.S. Embassy is working tirelessly to provide all possible assistance to the American citizens affected by the attacks and their families.
“These vile attacks are a stark reminder of why the United States remains resolved in our fight to defeat terrorism. We stand with the Sri Lankan government and people as they confront violent extremism and have offered our assistance as they work to bring the perpetrators to justice.”
At least 207 people were killed and 469 injured when eight suicide bombings, mainly in Colombo, ravaged Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday in the island’s bloodiest day since the civil war ended a decade ago. Four Indians, two of them women. were among the dead while some others had a narrow escape.
Sri Lanka declared a nationwide curfew and placed curbs on social media to kill fake news after suicide bombers carried out a string of well-planned explosions targeting luxury hotels and Catholic churches in Colombo and elsewhere, triggering international outrage.
The first of the eight blasts took place in the morning in three luxury hotels in the heart of Colombo and in a church each in Colombo, Negombo, 30 km from here, and in the Tamil-majority Batticaloa town in the island’s east that was once a Tamil Tiger stronghold.
In the afternoon, another blast hit a guest house near the zoo in Dehiwala in Colombo, killing two persons, and a housing complex at Dematogoda in the city leaving three policemen dead.
A total of 27 foreigners, including four Indians and also people from Turkey, the US, Britain, the Netherlands, Portugal and China, perished in the mayhem.
Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, quoting official reports from Colombo, identified the Indians as Lakshmi, Narayan Chandrashekhar and Ramesh.
The fourth was a Kerala woman holidaying in Colombo. P.S. Razeena, 58, had arrived there along with her husband to meet their relatives engaged in business there and was staying at one of the three hotels targeted by suicide bombers.
Razeena and her husband, who hail from Kerala’s Kasargode, lived in Dubai.
Many Indians, including noted Indian Tamil actress Radikaa Sarathkumar and a party of businessmen from Andhra Pradesh’s Anantpur, had a narrow escape. Radikaa tweeted that she was staying at the Cinnamon Grand, located near the official residence of the Sri Lankan Prime Minister, and had just left it prior to the blast there.
Authorities said a total of eight suspects had been arrested but gave no further details.
Officials and survivors painted a horrific picture of what happened.
Kieran Arasaratnam, who was staying in the Shangri-La, one of the three hotels that were targeted, said he heard what sounded like a “thunder”, forcing him to sprint all the way down from the 17th floor, BBC reported.
He saw the second floor restaurant gutted and realized he was alive only because he delayed his breakfast.
In Cinnamon Grand, survivors said that a suicide bomber had joined the line at the breakfast buffet and detonate the explosives.
Member of European Parliament, Nirj Deva, said he had just arrived at one of the hotels after the blast and saw scenes of carnage all around.
The bloodbath started around 8.30 a.m. at the St Anthony’s Shrine at Kochchikade in Colombo during Easter Mass where one man said he heard a booming explosion and saw virtually the whole roof come crashing down. “We just ran,” he told the media.
The other places hit were St Sebastian’s Church in Negombo, the Zion Church in Batticaloa, 250 km east of Colombo, and the Cinnamon Grand and Kingsbury Hotels.
Photos and videos circulating on social media showed the roof of one church had been almost fully blown away in the blast. The floor was littered with a mixture of roof tiles, splintered wood and blood, media reports said.
Many people could be seen covered in blood. Some helped those with more serious injuries. Ambulances, their sirens wailing, rushed the dead and seriously injured to hospitals — once a familiar sight in Colombo.
Minister of Economic Reforms Harsha de Silva described the carnage. “Horrible scenes. I saw many body parts strewn all over,” he said.
No one claimed responsibility for the bloodbath but AFP reported that Sri Lankan Police chief Pujuth Jayasundara had issued a nationwide alert 10 days ago warning that suicide bombers planned to hit prominent Catholic churches.
The Daily Mirror newspaper quoted the findings of initial investigations as saying that the first six major blasts were caused by suicide bombers and added that two of them had checked a day earlier into the Shangri-La Hotel.
It said that the investigators who broke into Room No 616 “had recovered materials used by radical” Islamist extremists. The Mirror said it was not clear if the bombers were Sri Lankans or foreigners.
The government declared a state of emergency, imposed indefinite curfew across the nation and temporarily blocked Facebook and Instagram to curb the spread of fake news. All schools were ordered shut until Tuesday.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke on phone with Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, called the terror attacks “cold-blooded and pre-planned” barbarism and offered all help from New Delhi.
Condemnation was fast and swift from across the world: China, the US, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pope Francis, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, Ireland, Britain, Germany, Singapore, the Philippines, Israel, Afghanistan, Malaysia, Egypt, New Zealand, Canada and the European Commission denounced the killings.
A Sri Lankan Tamil journalist, V. Thanabalasingham, told IANS that a sense of panic had gripped Colombo, which had given up its overbearing security cover ever since the Tamil Tigers were crushed in May 2009, leading to a decade of peace.
President Sirisena urged the public to be calm and cooperate with the authorities to conduct swift investigations into the blasts. “I am shocked and saddened by the situation.”
AFP said a foreign intelligence agency had reported that the National Thowheeth Jama’ath (NTJ), a Muslim group blamed for attacks on Buddhist shrines, was planning to carry out suicide attacks against prominent churches as well as the Indian High Commission in Colombo.
Although Christians form only around 7 per cent of Sri Lanka’s mainly Buddhist population, they are found both in the majority Sinhalese and minority Tamil communities.
New York (IANS): The United States denounced the Easter bombings in Sri Lanka as an affront to universal values and confirmed that many of its citizens were among the victims.
Washington “condemns in the strongest terms the outrageous terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka”, US President Donald Trump’s Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said on Sunday.
“We stand with the Sri Lankan government and people as they bring to justice the perpetrators of these despicable and senseless acts.”
Earlier, President Donald Trump tweeted: “We stand ready to help” Sri Lanka.
“The United States offers heartfelt condolences to the great people of Sri Lanka.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said: “We can confirm that several US citizens were among those killed. The US Embassy is working tirelessly to provide all possible assistance to the American citizens affected by the attacks and their families.”
He added: “Attacks on innocent people gathering in a place of worship or enjoying a holiday meal are affronts to the universal values and freedoms that we hold dear, and demonstrate yet again the brutal nature of radical terrorists whose sole aim is to threaten peace and security.”
In New York City, police department Chief Terence Monahana said, in a tweet, that although there was no known connection to city, police “officers will be seen at temples & churches as we remain steadfast in our mission to keep every New Yorker safe”.
Sympathy for the victims and outrage over terrorism poured in from US politicians on Twitter.
Former US President Barack Obama tweeted that the attacks “are an attack on humanity”.
“Today’s heartbreaking attacks in Sri Lanka come as the country has worked hard to build a common future after years of war”, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat tweeted.
Former Secretary of State and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton tweeted: “On this holy weekend for many faiths, we must stand united against hatred and violence.”
Republican Senator Mitt Romney tweeted: “As we celebrate the miracle of Easter, we hold in our hearts the victims of the senseless violence in Sri Lanka and their loved ones. We pray that they may experience God’s eternal grace, comfort, and love.”
Aspirants for the Democratic Party’ presidential nomination joined the wave of sympathy.
“On a day devoted to love & peace, may we remember Jesus Christ’s message of love – for God & for each other – as we commit to defeating hate with love,” tweeted Representative Tulsi Gabbard, a Hindu American.
Senator Kamala Harris tweeted: “I am horrified by the attacks in Sri Lanka, where so many families were celebrating such a joyous day. Praying for the victims and their loved ones.”
Senator Elizabeth Warren tweeted: “To slaughter worshipers at church during Easter service is an act of great evil.”
“No person should have to fear for their life in their place of worship,” tweeted Bernie Sanders. “We must work to bring this world together around our common humanity.”
(Arul Louis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter @arulouis)