Ruwan Wijewardene, the defense minister urged the news media not to report the names of the attackers or to make them “martyrs.”
According to reports from AFP and Reuters, at least 160 people, including 35 foreigners, were killed and over 400 injured after simultaneous blasts rocked Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday, the day of Jesus’s resurrection from the dead. At least eight explosions were reported including at least three in churches and three in hotels frequented by tourists.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe held an emergency meeting and 200 troops have been deployed to carry out relief operations. The motive for the attacks remains unclear. However, as per AFP reports, Sri Lankan police chief had issued alerts of possible attacks in “prominent churches” 10 days ahead of the blasts. The first explosion was reported from St Anthony’s Church in Kochcikade in Colombo, the second from St Sebastian’s Church at Katuwapitiya in Negombo and third from a church in Batticaloa. Three five-star hotels from where the blasts were reported are the Shangrila, the Cinnamon Grand, and the Kingsbury. The blasts occurred at around 8.45 am (local time) when Easter Sunday masses were in progress. It is pertinent to mention here that out of Sri Lanka’s total population of about 22 million, around 7.6 per cent people are Christian.
World Leaders Condemn The Attack
World leaders condemn the attack and extend their solidarity with Sri Lankan government and those in pain.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted, “Strongly condemn the horrific blasts in Sri Lanka. There is no place for such barbarism in our region. India stands in solidarity with the people of Sri Lanka. My thoughts are with the bereaved families and prayers with the injured.”
Strongly condemn the horrific blasts in Sri Lanka. There is no place for such barbarism in our region. India stands in solidarity with the people of Sri Lanka. My thoughts are with the bereaved families and prayers with the injured.
— Chowkidar Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) April 21, 2019
India condemns the terror attacks in Sri Lanka and offers its condolences to the people and government of the country. Such senseless violence, aimed at innocent people, has no place in civilised society. We stand in complete solidarity with Sri Lanka #PresidentKovind
— President of India (@rashtrapatibhvn) April 21, 2019
I’m saddened & disturbed by reports of multiple bomb blasts in #Colombo in which over 100 people have died & more than 300 injured.
I strongly condemn this diabolical act of terrorism.
My condolences to the families of the victims. I pray the injured make a speedy recovery.
— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) April 21, 2019
Strongly condemn the horrific terrorist attack in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday resulting in precious lives lost & hundreds injured. My profound condolences go to our Sri Lankan brethren. Pakistan stands in complete solidarity with Sri Lanka in their hour of grief.
— Imran Khan (@ImranKhanPTI) April 21, 2019
I condemn in the strongest terms possible the Easter terror attacks in #SriLanka. This is an assault on all of humanity.
On behalf of the Turkish people, I offer my condolences to the families of the victims and the people of #SriLanka, and wish a speedy recovery to the injured.
— Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (@RTErdogan) April 21, 2019
Russian President Vladimir Putin condemned the attack and denounced it as “cruel and criminal.” In a telegram sent to his Sri Lankan counterpart, Putin said Moscow stands with Lanka and is a “reliable partner of Sri Lanka in the fight against international terrorism.”
138 people have been killed in Sri Lanka, with more that 600 badly injured, in a terrorist attack on churches and hotels. The United States offers heartfelt condolences to the great people of Sri Lanka. We stand ready to help!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 21, 2019
Seven are arrested in connection with the blasts
Ruwan Wijewardene, the defense minister, said that seven people had been arrested and identified in connection with the attacks. The government also said that suicide bombers had set off the explosions.
“We believe these were coordinated attacks, and one group was behind them,” Wijewardene said. He urged the news media not to report the names of the attackers or to make them “martyrs.”
Three officers were killed while hunting for the attackers at a housing complex in the Colombo suburb of Dematagoda, officials said. The police said they had found explosives inside one of the apartments and that a firefight had broken out between officers and the suspects inside the building.
One suspect detonated explosives during questioning by the police inside a home in the suburb. Officials at the site said they believed the attacks had been planned there. As the authorities questioned members of the group, another suspect escaped, and was being sought by a circling helicopter.
Wijewardene said that police units had been put on alert a week ago by the force’s chief inspector, Pujith Jayasundara, about potential attacks on churches. It was unclear what steps taken to safeguard against attacks.
Sri Lanka shuts down social media
Sri Lankan officials also temporarily blocked several social media networks, including Facebook and Instagram. Users also reported being unable to access the messaging services WhatsApp and Viber. The government set a nationwide curfew from 6 p.m. Sunday to 6 a.m. Monday.
Though Sunday’s attacks have no known link to social media, Sri Lanka has a troubled history with racial violence incited on the platforms. Its ban was an extraordinary step that reflects growing global concerns about social media.