A series of bombings struck churches and hotels in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday killing more than 250 people.
A series of coordinated bombings on Easter Sunday rocked Sri Lanka, killing at least 257 people (with the death toll revised down from 359 by authorities) and wounding 500 others.
The attacks were the deadliest on the island nation since the end of its civil war 10 years ago, and targeted three churches as well as four hotels in the capital, Colombo.
Nearly all victims were Sri Lankan, many of them Christian worshippers attending Easter mass. Dozens of foreigners were also killed.
Authorities said the attacks were carried out by two little-known Muslim organisations.
Here are the latest updates:
Thursday, May 2:
Sri Lanka attacks death toll rises to 257
The death toll from the Easter suicide bomb attacks has risen to 257, authorities said, warning that the final number of dead would rise further.
“The death toll stands at 257 as of now,” Anil Jasinghe, government director general of health services, told the AFP news agency.
According to the latest count, 496 injured were admitted to hospitals, with 47 still being treated and 12 of those in intensive care.
Catholic services in Colombo cancelled for second week
Catholic services are being cancelled for a second weekend in Sri Lanka’s capital after the government warned of more possible attacks.
Revered Edmund Tillakaratne, spokesperson for the Colombo diocese, said on Thursday that Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith cancelled all Sunday services in the diocese based on the latest security reports.
Last week, Muslims were told to stay home for Friday prayers and all of Sri Lanka’s Catholic churches were closed. Instead of the usual Sunday Mass, Ranjith delivered a homily before clergy and national leaders at his residence that aired on television.
Tuesday, April 30:
Saudi embassy advises Saudis to leave Sri Lanka
Saudi Arabia advised its nationals to leave Sri Lanka, Al Ekhbariya state TV said, citing the kingdom’s embassy in Colombo.
|Sri Lanka: Muslims fearful for their future|
“Due to the current security situation in the Republic of Sri Lanka, the embassy advises citizens in Sri Lanka to leave,” the embassy said in a tweet.
Sri Lankan minister warns of more attacks
Rajitha Senaratne, Sri Lanka’s minister of health, said he and seven others have received intelligence that the group behind the Easter Sunday bombings could strike again
Senaratne said government ministers were warned that they have been identified as targets of possible additional suicide attacks.
He said he was told by intelligence officials to stay at home on Sunday and Monday because of the threat of another attack.
Sri Lanka to resume mass on Sunday: cardinal
Sri Lanka’s Catholic Church said public mass will resume on Sunday, two weeks after Easter Sunday bombings killed 253 people at three churches and three luxury hotels.
|Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, the archbishop of Colombo, has been a vocal critic of the government’s apparent failure to share near-specific intelligence [Danish Siddiqui/Reuters]|
“On the 5th of May we are going to begin masses,” Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith told AFP on Tuesday. “But we will start with a smaller number of masses and see if we can slowly increase it depending on how the situation develops.”
US warns of more possible attacks
The United States believes members of the group blamed for Sri Lanka’s Easter Sunday attacks may be at large and planning more assaults, the US ambassador to Sri Lanka said on Tuesday.
|With churches still shut after bombings, Sri Lankans watch mass on TV|
“We do believe that the terrorist threat is ongoing and there may be active plotters. Active members of the attack group that carried out the terror attacks on Easter Sunday may still be at large,” Ambassador Alaina Teplitz told Reuters in an interview.
“We certainly have reason to believe that the active attack group has not been fully rendered inactive. We do believe that there is active planning underway.”
Sri Lanka lifts social media ban
Sri Lanka’s president has lifted a nationwide social media ban that was imposed after the Easter suicide bomb attacks that killed over 250 people.
A government statement on Tuesday said that President Maithripala Sirisena had lifted the ban that blocked Facebook, WhatsApp, YouTube and other popular sites.
It asked the public to “act in a responsible manner” on social media.
At least 42 foreigners dead: Sri Lanka
Sri Lankan authorities have identified 42 foreign nationals among the
253 people killed in the string of Easter suicide bombings, officials
said on Tuesday.
Another 12 foreigners remain unaccounted for and could be among still unidentified bodies at Colombo’s police morgue, foreign ministry officials said.
Monday, April 29:
Tourist arrivals to drop by 50 percent: Tourism chief
Tourist arrivals in Colombo are expected to fall by 50 percent in the next two months following the Easter bombings that killed more than 250 people, Sri Lanka’s Tourism Development Authority Chairman Kishu Gomes said on Monday.
|Sri Lanka bans face veils after Easter bombings|
Tourist arrivals in areas outside Colombo will drop by about 30 percent over the same period, he added.
Sri Lanka police chief refuses to quit
Sri Lanka’s incumbent police chief has refused to step down over the Easter attacks despite President Maithripala Sirisena on Monday naming his successor.
Sirisena said on Friday that police chief Pujith Jayasundara had resigned but Jayasundara never sent the letter, officials said, and has remained in his government residence.
The president has now named Deputy Inspector-General Chandana Wickramaratne as acting police chief, an official involved in the process said.
Sri Lanka on alert
Sri Lankan security officials have warned that those behind Easter Sunday’s deadly suicide bombings were planning more attacks imminently, using a van and bombers disguised in military uniforms.
“There could be another wave of attacks,” the head of ministerial security division (MSD), a unit of the police, said in a letter to politicians and security officials seen by Reuters on Monday.
“The relevant information further notes that persons dressed in military uniforms and using a van could be involved in the attacks,” the letter said.
|The government had said it was seeking to curb the spread of misinformation when it blocked social media after the attacks [Manish Swarup/AP]|
Sri Lanka bans face coverings
President Maithripala Sirisena has banned all kinds of face coverings that may conceal people’s identities a week after the Easter Sunday bombings.
“No one should obscure their faces to make identification difficult,” a statement from presidential office said.
The law that takes effect from Monday did not specifically name veils worn by many Muslim women.
Sunday, April 28:
Cardinal fears attacks probe may ‘flop’
The head of Sri Lanka’s Roman Catholic Church has expressed concern that an official investigation into the Easter bombings will end up being a “flop”.
Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith slammed what he described as Sri Lanka’s culture of impunity, saying many high-profile assassinations over the past 30 years remained largely unsolved.
“There is a certain amount of suspicion among our people that there will be no more follow-up, only words… If they [the authorities] are sincere, they must have a thorough investigation,” he said.
The cardinal said he had heard that President Maithripala Sirisena had appointed a commission of inquiry into the massacre.
|‘A generation lost’: The victims of Sri Lanka bombings|
Most attackers killed or arrested: PM
Sri Lankan forces have killed or arrested most of those linked to the Easter suicide bombings and the country is ready to return to normality, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said.
But the prime minister said the government had planned tougher laws to deal with “extremists” and foreign clerics teaching in Sri Lanka illegally will be expelled.
The Easter Sunday bombings that killed more than 250 people were carried out by a “small, but a well-organised group”, Wickremesinghe said in a statement.
“Most of them have been arrested. Some have died,” he said. “Now we are able to return to normality. We should all now help restore the normal life of the community.”
|Security personnel stand guard in front of St Anthony’s Shrine [Danish Siddiqui/Reuters]|
Wickremesinghe added “jihad terrorism” must be ended immediately.
“There are several foreigners working as teachers in our country without work visas. In consultation with the Muslim religious affairs ministry and the home ministry, we will expel them from the country,” he said.
Wickremesinghe did not give a number or the nationalities of the clerics. The prime minister also thanked the minority Muslim community for tipping off authorities about dangerous individuals.
Sri Lankan police raid National Thowheed Jamath HQ
Armed police have raided the headquarters of the National Thowheed Jamath (NTJ), suspected of being behind the suicide bombings on churches and hotels that killed more than 250 people, a Reuters witness said.
The raid took place at the NTJ’s base in the eastern town of Kattankudy a day after the group was banned under new emergency laws.
|Sri Lanka televises mass amid high security|
Police believe that Zahran Hashim, the alleged mastermind of the Easter Sunday attacks, led the group or a splinter faction to mount the attacks in Colombo as well as on a church in Batticaloa in the east.
Father, brothers of bombings mastermind killed: Relative, police
The father and two brothers of the suspected mastermind of Easter Sunday bombings were killed when security forces stormed their safe house two days ago, police sources and a relative of the suicide bombers have told Reuters news agency.
Zainee Hashim, Rilwan Hashim and their father Mohamed Hashim, who were seen in a social media video calling for “all-out war against non believers”, were among 15 killed in a fierce gun battle with the military on the east coast on Friday, four police sources said.
Niyaz Sharif, brother-in-law of Zahran Hashim, the suspected ringleader of Sunday bombings, told Reuters the video showed Hashim’s two brothers and father.
Cardinal calls suicide attacks ‘insult to humanity’
Sri Lanka’s Roman Catholic leader has condemned the Easter attacks as “an insult to humanity” as the tense and grief-stricken country marks a week from the suicide attack.
The Archbishop of Colombo, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, held a private mass after cancelling all public services amid fears of a repeat of the bombings that killed 253 people.
A heavily-guarded vigil was held outside St Anthony’s Shrine in Colombo at 8:45am, the moment a bomber struck the church last week, killing dozens of worshippers.
|A candle burns outside St. Anthony’s Shrine a week after the suicide attacks [Thomas Peter/Reuters]|
Security high as Sri Lanka marks one week from attacks
The tense and grief-stricken South Asian country has marked a week since suicide bombers attacked three churches and four hotels.
The Sri Lankan military is still hunting for Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS)-linked fighters and security across the country remains high.
Thousands of Sri Lankan troops remained on the streets, guarding churches and mosques for the symbolic day.
Saturday, April 27:
Sri Lanka bans two groups linked to Easter bombings
President Sirisena has banned two groups linked to the Easter bombings – the National Thowheed Jamath (NTJ) and Jammiyathul Millathu Ibrahim (JMI) – under emergency powers that came into effect on Tuesday.
Dharmasri Ekanayake, a spokesman for the president, said the move allowed the government to confiscate any property belonging to the two organisations.
Relatives of suicide bombings mastermind wounded in gun battle
The wife and a daughter of the suspected mastermind behind the suicide attacks on churches and four hotels in Sri Lanka were wounded in a gun battle in the east of the country, according to police and the suspect’s sister.
The shootout took place at a safe house on Friday in Sainthamaruthu in the Ampara district as police hunted for people linked to Mohamed Hashim Mohamed Zahran, who has been named as the ringleader of the Easter Sunday bombings.
“I was asked to come to identify them but I am not sure I can go,” Mohamed Hashim Mathaniya, sister of Zahran, told Reuters from the town of Kattankudy in the east.
|Security personnel seen at the site of an overnight gun battle between troops and suspected fighters on the east coast of Sri Lanka, in Kalmunai [Dinuka Liyanawatte/Reuters]|
Indian police uncovered a plot, but Sri Lanka didn’t act
Indian police stumbled upon a detailed plot for the Easter Sunday bombings in Sri Lanka, the Associated Press news agency reported.
Police managed to break into National Towheed Jamath’s communications and began tapping into the plot, according to Ajai Sahni, executive director of the Institute for Conflict Management in New Delhi.
“That is why the kind of detailing of the incident they received was very, very specific,” Sahni said. “They knew the group, they knew the targets, they knew the time, they knew the whereabouts of the suicide bombers, and all of this was communicated to the Sri Lankan government.”
Top Sri Lankan officials have acknowledged that some of the island nation’s intelligence units were given advance notice about the attacks and that little was done to prevent them.
Pakistan’s under-19 cricket team’s visit postponed
Sri Lanka has postponed a tour of Pakistan’s under-19 team following the Easter Sunday bombings, a source at the national cricket board told Reuters news agency.
The Pakistan under-19 side, captained by Rohail Nazir, was scheduled to arrive in Sri Lanka on April 30 to play two four-day matches, followed by three one dayers.
Police chief ‘refusing to quit’ despite president’s request
Pujith Jayasundara, Sri Lanka’s police chief, has refused a request by President Sirisena to step down over the failure to thwart the Easter Sunday attacks, two sources at the president’s office told Reuters.
Sirisena blamed Jayasundara and Hemasiri Fernando, the defence secretary, for not sharing advance warnings of the attacks with him.
Fernando resigned earlier in the week, but Jayasundara was holding on, the two officials told Reuters news agency. Under Sri Lanka’s constitution, only parliament can remove the police chief.
Girl, woman survive bloody Sri Lanka raid
A girl and a woman survived a fiery explosion at a suspected safe house in eastern Sri Lanka that killed 15 people during a raid linked to the Easter bombings.
Police spokesperson Ruwan Gunasekara said the woman and girl are critically injured and are being treated at a nearby hospital in Ampara District.
Security forces have been clearing the safe house following an overnight gunbattle between soldiers and suspects. Authorities say the suspects set off three explosions and opened fire.
Fifteen dead in overnight raid on suspects hideout
Fifteen people, including six children, have died during a Sri Lankan security forces operation as three suicide bombers blow themselves up and others were shot dead, police said.
The three men set off explosives, also killing three women and six children inside what was believed to a safe house near the eastern town of Kalmunai on Friday night.
“Three other men, also believed to be suicide bombers, were found dead outside the house,” police said in a statement, adding that they had been shot.
|Security forces sealed off the site of an overnight gun battle in Kalmunai [Dinuka Liyanawatte/Reuters]|
Friday, April 26:
Soldiers in gun battle with Easter bombings suspects
Soldiers were engaged in a gun battle with suspects after attempting to raid a building in Sri Lanka’s Eastern Province as part of an ongoing investigation into the Easter Sunday suicide bomb attacks, a military spokesman said.
The clashes took place in the coastal town of Sammanthurai, 325km from Colombo, according to Brigadier Sumith Atapattu.
Police found suicide vests, detonators, metal balls and an ISIL banner, according to Al Jazeera’s Minelle Fernandez.
Journalists allowed in to bombed Colombo church
Catholic priests allowed journalists inside St Anthony’s Church in the capital for the first time since it was targeted on Easter Sunday.
Broken glass littered the sanctuary’s damaged pews and blood still stained the floor. Shoes left by panicked worshippers remained in the darkened church, and broken bottles of holy water and flowers were strewn on the floor.
|A clergyman talks to the media inside St. Anthony’s Shrine [Thomas Peter/Reuters]|
Catholic churches cancel all Sunday masses
The Archbishop of Colombo said there will be no Sunday masses until further notice after the Easter bombings in Sri Lanka.
Speaking at a news conference in the capital, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith appealed for financial support to rebuild the lives of the affected people and reconstruct the churches targeted in the bombings.
“I assured the Muslim community not to have any fears after the attacks,” he said, adding that all four major religions in Sri Lanka have “a very good relationship”.
|Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, the archbishop of Colombo, attends a news conference at his residence in Colombo [Thomas Peter/ Reuters]|
Sri Lanka fears $1.5bn tourism losses
Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera said tourist arrivals to Sri Lanka could drop by up to 30 percent in the wake of Easter Sunday bombings, with losses of $1.5bn this year.
“Tourism will be the worst affected,” Samaraweera told reporters. “We expect a 30 percent drop in arrivals and that means a loss of about $1.5 billion in foreign exchange.”
Samaraweera said the country could take up to two years to fully recover the attacks
‘Every household in the country will be checked’
Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena has revealed his short and long-term measures to bring back normalcy to the island nation coming to terms with the Easter bombings.
“Every household in the country will be checked. The lists of permanent residents of every house will be established to ensure no unknown person could live anywhere,” he said, pointing out that during the fight against LTTE, similar methods were adopted.
Sirisena acknowledged “a serious lapse” on the part of the country’s defence secretary and top police official, who failed to inform him about an April 4 letter from a “friendly foreign country” warning about a possible attack.
|A Muslim walks past a banner on a mosque wall during the Friday prayers in Colombo [Dinuka Liyanawatte/Reuters]|
Guarded by soldiers, Sri Lanka’s Muslims pray for peace
As soldiers armed with assault rifles guarded Colombo’s golden-domed Kollupitiya Jummah Masjid, hundreds of Muslims defied government calls to stay at home and attended a service they said was focused on a call for people of all religions to help return peace to Sri Lanka.
“We work with Christians, Buddhists, Hindus. It has been a threat for all of us because of what these few people have done to this beautiful country,” said 28-year-old sales worker Raees Ulhaq.
“Every day since this carnage happened, me, my family, and all, we are praying to God, please bring us peace,” Abdul Waheed Mohamed, a 43-year-old engineer, said after leaving the Friday prayers.
|Muslims attend prayers at the Kollupitiya Jummah Masjid in Colombo [Dinuka Liyanawatte/Reuters]|
Police wrongly identify American Muslim over attack
Sri Lankan police have been left red-faced after wrongly identifying female American Muslim activist Amara Majeed as a suspect in the deadly Easter bombings.
Police issued a flyer with the names and photos of six wanted people, including one Abdul Cader Fathima Khadhiya, whose photo showed Majeed in a headscarf.
“Hello everyone! I have this morning been FALSELY identified by the Sri Lankan government as one of the ISIS Easter attackers in Sri Lanka,” Majeed wrote on her Facebook page.
Police later said the photo alongside Khadhiya was not of the suspect.
Easter attack leader died in hotel bombing: President
The suspected leader believed to have played a key role in Sri Lanka’s deadly Easter bombings has died, President Maithripala Sirisena said on Friday.
“What intelligence agencies have told me is that Zahran was killed during the Shangri-La attack,” Sirisena told reporters, referring to Zahran Hashim (also called Mohamed Zahran), leader of a local Muslim hardline group.
Sri Lanka police chief resigns: President
Sri Lanka’s top police official, Inspector General of Police Pujith Jayasundara, has resigned over failures that led to the deadly Easter bomb attacks, the country’s president said on Friday.
“I’ll nominate a new IGP soon,” President Maithripala Sirisena told reporters.
Sirisena’s nominee has to be confirmed by a constitutional council.
The resignation comes after the country’s top defence ministry official, defence secretary Hemasiri Fernando resigned on Thursday.
Police looking for 140 people with ISIL links
Sri Lankan police is looking for 140 people with links to the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL or ISIS), according to President Maithripala Sirisena.
Sirisena told reporters on Friday that some Sri Lankan youth had been involved with the group since 2013, and that top defence and police chiefs had not shared information with him about the impending attacks.
Increased security amid threats of further attacks
Heavy security is out on the streets of Sri Lanka’s capital after warnings of further attacks.
At St. Anthony’s Church, one of those struck in the attacks on Easter Sunday, there were more soldiers than normal on Friday. Shops nearby remained closed.
Authorities told Muslims to pray at home rather than attend communal Friday prayers.
|A soldier stands guard outside the Grand Mosque in Negombo, Sri Lanka [Reuters]|
Thursday, April 25:
Death toll revised down to 253
Sri Lanka’s health ministry has revised the death toll from Sunday’s bombings down from 359 to 253 saying some of the “badly mutilated bodies” had been double-counted.
In a statement, the ministry said once all autopsies were completed and cross-referenced with DNA samples, an earlier toll released by the police was reduced by 106.
The ministry did not break down the new tally in terms of locals and foreigners.
UK warns against ‘all but essential’ travel to Sri Lanka
The British foreign office has advised UK citizens against “all but essential” travel to Sri Lanka, warning “terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks” in the country.
“Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places visited by foreigners,” the updated travel advice said.
“Following the horrific attacks on Easter Sunday, and the ongoing Sri Lankan security operation, I have … decided to update the travel advice to British nationals to Sri Lanka to advise against all but essential travel,” said Jeremy Hunt, the British foreign secretary.
Father of suspected Easter suicide bombers arrested
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe told The Associated Press news agency that the father of two of Sunday’s alleged suicide bombers has been arrested on suspicion of aiding his sons in carrying out the attacks.
Wickremesinghe said the father is a “leading businessman” and “active in politics”.
He also warned that some people believed by authorities to be linked with the attacks were still at large and may possess explosives, despite police having already detained “a lot of suspects”.
|A Sri Lankan navy soldier searches a truck at a check point in Colombo [Dinuka Liyanawatte/Reuters]|
Defence secretary steps down
Hemasiri Fernando, Sri Lanka’s defence secretary, has resigned following the security forces’ failure to stop the deadly church and hotel attacks on Easter Sunday.
He said that while there had been no failure on his own part, he was taking responsibility for failures of some institutions he headed as the secretary of defence.
“I decided to resign on my own volition,” he told Sri Lankan channel News First. “Until a suitable person is found, I will continue to help. I don’t think there were failures at the defence ministry. But some agencies under the ministry’s purview appear to have failed in coordination.”
The office of Sri Lanka’s President Maithripala Sirisena confirmed Fernando would serve in the post until a replacement is appointed.
Muslim refugees in Negombo attacked
Sri Lanka’s prime minister told The Associated Press news agency that minority Ahmadi Muslims who are refugees from Pakistan have faced attacks since the Easter bombings.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said security forces were trying to help the Ahmadis but “a few have been attacked” due to some people becoming “suspicious of foreigners, not of Muslims per se … in the heat of the moment”.
About 500 Ahmadis have fled their homes in Negombo and are living some 30 kilometres away under police protection. Others are living under police and military protection at the Ahmadi mosque in Negombo.
|A member of the Civil Defence Force keeps watch outside Negombo Grand Mosque [Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters]|
US embassy tells people to avoid places of worship in Sri Lanka
The US embassy in Sri Lanka warned people against attending “places of worship” this weekend following warnings from local authorities over possible additional attacks on such locations.
“Continue to remain vigilant and avoid large crowds,” the embassy cautioned in a post on Twitter.
Authorities urge media caution on bomb attacks coverage
Authorities in Sri Lanka asked media organisations reporting on developments related to Sunday’s attacks to only use material confirmed by official spokespeople for police, the armed forces, or the Department of Government Information.
A notice issued by the department said caution was necessary to prevent the spread of false information.
The guidelines came as the Sri Lankan government maintained a social media ban, saying it would stop the spread of false reports that might incite violence.
|A soldier stands guard at St. Anthony’s Shrine in Colombo [Thomas Peter/Reuters]|
Catholic church services suspended
All Catholic churches in the country have been instructed to stay closed and suspend services until security improves, the AFP news agency reported. There will be no religious gatherings at Catholic churches on Thursday.
“On the advice of the security forces we are keeping all churches closed,” a priest told AFP.
Security has been beefed up for Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith and for the Bishop’s House in Colombo, sources have told Al Jazeera.
Sri Lanka suspends visa-free plan for 39 countries
Sri Lanka’s government said Thursday it was suspending plans to grant
citizens of 39 countries visa-free entry during the country’s tourism
low season in the wake of the deadly Easter bombings.
“Investigations have revealed foreign links to the [Easter] attacks and we don’t want this programme to be abused,” Tourism Minister John Amaratunga said in a statement.
Israel tells citizens to leave Sri Lanka
Israel urged its citizens travelling in Sri Lanka to leave the country, citing an “elevated concrete threat” following bomb attacks on churches and hotels on Easter Sunday.
Israel’s counter-terrorism bureau said it was issuing the warning “in view of the deterioration in the security situation and the fear that the events have not yet ended or that there is a chance of their recurrence in the near future”.
|A coffin containing the body of Kaori Takahashi, a Japanese woman killed in the bombings in Sri Lanka, arrives at Narita international airport in Japan [Kyodo/via Reuters]|
Sri Lanka Thowheed Jamath denies involvement in attacks
Sri Lanka Thowheed Jamath, which is separate from the National Thowheed Jamath (NTJ) group linked to the Easter Sunday attacks, has condemned “the reprehensible acts of violence” in the country.
“The evil crimes perpetrated through serial blasts can never be justified by any means, and the resultant catastrophe, mainly the loss of lives and suffering, only brings immense pain and heartache to everyone in Sri Lanka and around the globe,” the organisation said in a statement.
Minor explosion in Pugoda
A minor explosion has occurred in the town of Pugoda, about 40km east of the capital Colombo, according to police and residents.
No casualties were reported in the blast near a magistrates’ court.
Authorities ban use of drones
Sri Lanka’s civil aviation authority has banned the use of drones and other unmanned aircraft in its airspace until further notice.
Wednesday, April 24:
Sri Lanka president asks security officials to stand down
Sri Lanka’s president has moved to replace the defence secretary and the national police chief after security forces failed to act on warnings before the Easter suicide bombings.
President Maithripala Sirisena’s office announced that he requested the resignations of defence secretary Hemasiri Fernando and Inspector General of Police, Pujith Jayasundara. It wasn’t immediately clear who would replace them.
Sri Lanka police defuse bombs
Sri Lanka’s Special Task Force in the Katana area successfully defused an explosive device, police sources told Al Jazeera. The region, some 6.7 kilometres from Katuwapitiya, was the scene of one of the Easter Sunday attacks.
Police also attempted to defuse a second bomb before it detonated in Pettah, a neighbourhood in Colombo. The device was attached to an unattended motorcycle, according to police.
Sri Lanka Muslim groups denounce attackers
Sri Lanka’s Muslim civil society movements and associations called upon authorities to immediately arrest and punish the perpetrators of the Easter Sunday bombings, saying extremism in the name of Islam does not represent the religion.
The groups – including All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama, the Muslim Council, Jama’athe Islami, the Memon Association of Sri Lanka and Anjuman-E Saifi – said in a joint statement that authorities should also apprehend those who aided and abetted the attackers through incitement, financing and other support.
The statement added that neither the National Thowheed Jamath, a little-known local Muslim organisation blamed for the bombings by the government, nor any other group found to be responsible for the attacks represent Islam or reflect Muslim beliefs.
|Buddhist monks take part in a prayer ceremony for the victims in Colombo [Dinuka Liyanawatte/Reuters]|
Leader among nine suicide bombers: Minister
The leader of one of the groups behind the Easter Sunday attacks was believed to be one of the suicide bombers, which also included a woman, state minister of defence Ruwan Wijewardena said.
Speaking at a news conference in Colombo, Wijewardena said security forces believed that the bombers were “well educated” individuals, adding that one of them studied in the UK and Australia.
Wijewardena said there were nine suicide bombers, of which eight have been identified. Two safe houses were found after the attacks and at least 60 people were arrested in connection with the bombings, the minister added.
Death toll rises to 359
The death toll from the Easter Sunday bombings in Sri Lanka has risen to 359, police said.
Police spokesperson Ruwan Gunasekera released the toll on Wednesday but did not give a breakdown of casualties from the three churches and four hotels hit by suicide bombers.
Tuesday, April 23:
President to change defence heads after attacks
Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena said he expected to change the heads of the country’s defence forces within a day following their failure to prevent the Easter Sunday bombings, despite the fact they had prior information about the attacks.
“I will completely restructure the police and security forces in the coming weeks. I expect to change the heads of defence establishments within next 24 hours,” Sirisena said in a televised address to the nation.
“The security officials who got the intelligence report from a foreign nation did not share it with me. Appropriate actions would have been taken. I have decided to take stern action against these officials.”
ISIL claims responsibility
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) group has claimed responsibility for the bombings via its Amaq news portal.
“Those who carried out the attack that targeted the citizens of the coalition and Christians in Sri Lanka the day before yesterday were Islamic State fighters,” the group said in a statement.
In a later statement, the group gave the noms de guerre of seven people who it said were behind the “blessed attack” that targeted Christians during their “blasphemous holiday”, referring to Easter. It also released a photo of eight men it said were behind the blasts.
|A man mourns at a grave of a victim at Sellakanda Catholic cemetery in Negombo [Thomas Peter/Reuters]|
Sri Lanka PM warns more explosives ‘out there’
Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has warned more explosives and would-be attackers remain “out there” after Sunday’s bombings.
Wickremesinghe told reporters at a press conference that some officials were likely to lose their jobs over intelligence lapses surrounding the attacks and acknowledged there was a prior warning about the bombings.
He added that India’s embassy was eyed as a potential target.
Ardern aware of comments on NZ-Sri Lanka links
The office of New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in a statement she was aware of comments linking Sri Lanka’s bombings to the mosque attacks last month in Christchurch, in which 50 Muslims were shot dead.
Self-confessed white supremacist Brenton Tarrant, 28, has been charged with 50 counts of murder over the mosque shootings.
Ardern’s office also added that it understood “the Sri Lankan investigation into the attack is in its early stages”.
|Nuns attend a prayer meeting to show solidarity with the victims of Sri Lanka’s bomb blasts, outside a church in Kolkata, India [Rupak De Chowdhuri/Reuters]|
FBI assisting Sri Lanka authorities with probe
A spokeswoman for the United States’s FBI said the law enforcement agency was assisting Sri Lankan authorities with their investigation into the bomb attacks over the Easter weekend, Reuters news agency reported.
The Washington Post had earlier reported that the FBI had offered expertise to test evidence and that analysts were scouring databases for information regarding the attacks.
Suspected suicide bomber caught on camera
New footage of a suspected suicide bomber entering St Sebastian’s Church in Negombo has emerged online.
In the video, a young bearded man with a backpack can be seen outside the building.
The video does not show the explosion that followed.
Two brothers were hotel suicide bombers: AFP sources
Two brothers played a key role in the Easter Sunday blasts, police sources told AFP news agency.
The brothers, sons of a wealthy Colombo spice trader, blew themselves up as guests queued for breakfast at the Shangri-La and Cinnamon Grand hotels in the capital, the source said.
The sources also said that a fourth hotel was targeted in the string of bombings, but the attack failed.
At least 45 children killed in Sri Lanka attacks: UN
At least 45 children were among the more than 320 people killed in the bomb attacks, the UN said.
“The total now is 45 children who died,” UNICEF spokesperson Christophe Boulierac told reporters in Geneva.
He added that the toll could rise as many other minors “are wounded and are now fighting for their lives in intensive care units across the country”.
|Mass funerals were taking place in Negombo, two days after the attacks [Thomas Peter/Reuters]|
Attacks in ‘retaliation for Christchurch’: dep. defence minister
An initial probe into deadly suicide bomb attacks in Sri Lanka shows it was “retaliation for Christchurch”, the country’s state minister of defence said.
“The preliminary investigations have revealed that what happened in Sri Lanka was in retaliation for the attack against Muslims in Christchurch,” Ruwan Wijewardene told parliament.
Fifty people were killed in shooting attacks on two mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch on March 15.
A little known Muslim organisation, National Thowheed Jamath (NTJ), has been linked to the worst attacks on the Indian Ocean island since its civil war ended a decade ago.
Wijewardene said that along with NTJ, another local group, Jammiyathul Millathu Ibrahim (JMI) was also believed to be involved in the attacks.
“It was done by National Thowheed Jamath along with JMI,” he said.
Death toll climbs to 321: Defence minister
The death toll of the Easter Sunday bombings has climbed further to 321, state Defence Minister Ruwan Wijewardene announced.
Speaking in parliament in Colombo, Wijewardene said the toll included 38 foreigners.
About 375 people are still being treated in hospital.
Mass burial for bombings victims
The first mass burial for the victims of the Easter Sunday bombings took place in Colombo.
Mourners and relatives of the victims brought flowers to the memorial service and prayed with the clergy as coffins were being carried in and out of the church.
|Funeral ceremonies were held in Negombo for the victims of the attacks [Chamila Karunarathne/Anadolu]|
Death toll reaches 310
The death toll from Sri Lanka’s Easter Sunday bombings has now reached 310 with several people succumbing to their injuries, according to a police spokesperson.
About 500 people were wounded in the blasts, Ruwan Gunasekera said in a statement, adding that 40 people were now under arrest in connection with the attacks.
Tuesday has been declared a national day of mourning in Sri Lanka.
State of emergency enforced
Sri Lanka has been placed under a state of emergency as authorities aimed to maintain security and essential services during investigations into the bombings.
President Maithripala Sirisena made the declaration which gives security forces special powers, including the right to search and arrest individuals.
The country is also observing April 23 as a national day of mourning, a decision taken during a meeting of the National Security Council chaired by President Sirisena.
‘We never expected this’
A man whose Australian wife and only child died in a bomb blast in a Sri Lanka church on Sunday said he walked out ahead of his family moments before the explosion.
Sudesh Kolonne saw his 10-year-old daughter Alexendria dead on the floor of St Sebastian Catholic Church. Her mother Manik Suriaaratchi was also killed.
“I don’t know what to do,” Kolonne told Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
“We used to go to that church every Sunday. We never expected this.”
Monday, April 22:
Sri Lanka military granted special powers
Sri Lanka’s President Maithripala Sirisena declared a nationwide emergency from midnight onward on Monday, giving the military a wider berth to detain and arrest suspects – powers that were used during the civil war, but withdrawn when it ended.
The president’s media unit said the measure would be confined to dealing with “terrorism” and would not impinge on freedom of expression.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, meanwhile, said he feared Sunday’s massacre could unleash instability, and he vowed to “vest all necessary powers with the defence forces” to act against those responsible.
|A woman mourns next to two coffins during a mass burial at a cemetery near St. Sebastian’s Church in Negombo [Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters]|
Thirty-one foreign nationals killed
The bodies of 31 foreign nationals killed on Sunday have been identified, Sri Lanka’s foreign ministry said in a statement, with 14 others unaccounted for and feared dead.
Among those killed were eight Indian nationals, eight United Kingdom nationals, two Saudi Arabian nationals and two Chinese nationals.
The ministry also said 17 foreign nationals wounded in the attacks were receiving treatment at the National Hospital of Sri Lanka in Colombo and a separate private hospital in the capital.
|Nearly 300 people were killed in Sunday’s attacks [Dinuka Liyanawatte/Reuters]|
Spanish foreign ministry confirms two nationals killed
Spain’s foreign ministry said two Spanish nationals were killed in the Sri Lanka bombings.
The ministry said in a statement that a man and a woman had died, without providing further details.
The Spanish embassy in India is trying to obtain their death certificates, the ministry’s statement said.
Four United States nationals killed: State Department
At least four US nationals were killed in the Sri Lanka attacks, AFP
news agency reported, citing an unnamed official from the US State
Several other US citizens were also seriously injured in the assault on churches and luxury hotels, the official said.
UN: ‘Evil must be held accountable’
The “evil” perpetrators of the attacks must be held accountable for their actions, a spokesperson for the current president of the United Nations General Assembly, Maria Fernanda Espinosa, said.
Espinosa’s spokesperson called the attacks “senseless acts of violence” and also said “there is no justification for terrorism and… the world must unite to tackle it once for all”.
|The bodies of 31 foreign nationals killed on Sunday have been identified, according to Sri Lanka’s foreign ministry [Dinuka Liyanawatte/Reuters]|
Sri Lanka’s UN ambassador urges social media caution
Amrith Rohan Perera, Sri Lanka’s ambassador to the United Nations, urged Sri Lankans overseas to “to use social media responsibly” in the wake of the Easter Sunday attacks.
Perera’s statement on Monday came after his government shut down most social sites within the island nation, a move the ambassador said would help “prevent speculative and mischievous attempts to spread rumours until investigations are concluded”.
Trump calls Sri Lankan PM
US President Donald Trump called Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe to express his condolences.
Trump pledged the United States’ support in bringing the perpetrators of the attacks to justice, White House Deputy Press Secretary Hogan Gidley said.
|Three churches were targeted in Sunday’s attacks [File: AP]|
Opposition MP denounces intelligence-sharing accusations
Namal Rajapaksa, an opposition member of the Sri Lankan parliament for the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna party, told Al Jazeera the aftermath of the attacks must not become a “political game”.
“We are shocked to hear that the prime minister is claiming that he wasn’t aware of the security threat and of course trying to play the initial blame game and put the blame on to the president or the armed forces, this is not acceptable, the government and the prime minister are part of one government, they are part of one coalition,” Rajapaksa said.
“We want to keep the political differences aside, but we want the government to work together, the president and the prime minister, and take action because it is clearly a lack of security that has taken place here,” he added.
Interpol sends team to Sri Lanka
International criminal police organisation Interpol said it was deploying a team of investigators, including experts in disaster-victim identification, to Sri Lanka in order to assist local authorities.
The Incident Response Team, sent at the request of local authorities, also includes specialists with expertise in “crime scene examination, explosives, [and] counter-terrorism”, Interpol said in a statement.
“The families and friends of the victims of these bombings, as with every terrorist attack, require and deserve the full support of the global law enforcement community,” Jurgen Stock, Interpol’s secretary general, said.
Five Indian political party workers killed
At least five workers from an Indian political party on a break after working on India’s general election were among those killed in Sri Lanka, a government official told Reuters news agency.
Another two from a seven-member group from the Janata Dal (Secular) party were missing, the official said.
The group was on an outing after voting took place on Thursday in India’s general election in the southern state of Karnataka and were staying at the Shangri-La hotel in Colombo.
Pompeo vows fight on ‘Islamic radical terrorism’
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the United States will keep fighting “radical Islamic terror” in the wake of the Sri Lanka attacks.
“Radical Islamic terror remains a threat,” Pompeo told reporters. “This is America’s fight, too.”
The US State Department has warned of further attacks in Sri Lanka in a revised travel advisory, urging increased caution and adding, “Terrorist groups continue plotting possible attacks in Sri Lanka.”
|Sri Lankan police clear an area in Colombo, Sri Lanka [Dinuka Liyanawatte/Reuters]|
Pope condemns ‘inhuman acts’
Pope Francis called for universal condemnation of what he said were “terrorist acts, inhuman acts” that could never be justified.
It was the second straight day that the Roman Catholic pope condemned the attacks, which hit many Christians on the most important Christian feast day.
Google searches for Notre Dame outnumbered Sri Lanka attacks 7:1
The fire that ravaged France’s iconic Notre Dame Cathedral received seven times more searches on Google than the bombings that rocked Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday and killed nearly 300 people.
According to data retrieved from Google Trends, search results for both disasters have since plateaued, but comparisons between both stories reveal that worldwide search interest was at least seven times greater for the keywords “Notre Dame” over “Sri Lanka” during this past week.
Blast near church while Sri Lanka bomb squad was trying to defuse device – witness
An explosion went off in a van near St Anthony’s church in Colombo, where scores were killed on Monday when bomb squad officials were trying to defuse an explosive, a witness told Reuters news agency.
“The van exploded when the bomb defusing unit tried to defuse the bomb,” the witness said. Security forces spokesmen were not immediately available for comment.
No injuries have been reported.
Bomb detonators found at Colombo bus station: police
Police said they had found 87 bomb detonators at a Colombo bus station.
A statement said police found the detonators at the Bastian Mawatha Private bus stand, 12 of them scattered on the ground and another 75 in a garbage dump nearby.
Sri Lanka to seek help tracking international links to attacks
President Maithripala Sirisena will ask for foreign assistance to track international links to the Easter Sunday bombings, his office said.
“The intelligence reports (indicate) that foreign terrorist organisations are behind the local terrorists. Therefore, the president is to seek the assistance of the foreign countries,” it said in a statement.
April 23 declared day of national mourning
Sri Lanka’s government has declared Tuesday, April 23 a day of national mourning, the President’s Media Division announced.
Sri Lanka government orders new curfew
Authorities have ordered a new curfew in Colombo on Monday from 8pm to 4am on Tuesday, the Government Information Department announced.
The department said tensions remained high in the capital following Sunday’s bombings.
Health minister: National Thowheed Jamath involved in bombings
Cabinet spokesperson and health minister Rajitha Senaratne blamed the bombings on National Thowheed Jamath, a little-known Muslim organisation, without elaborating on evidence.
Speaking at Temple Trees, the official residence of the prime minister, Senaratne said that all the suicide bombers were Sri Lankan nationals, and that police officials were “aware of information” regarding possible attacks during Easter.
“Intelligence reports said that during this Easter period, these types of attacks can take place, and they also mentioned that Christian places of worship and places of tourist interest may be targeted,” Senaratne said.
Senaratne said the attacks were carried out with the help of an international network.
“We do not believe these attacks were carried out by a group of people who were confined to this country,” Senaratne said. “There was an international network without which these attacks could not have succeeded.”
Retired Supreme Court judge to head investigation
President Maithripala Sirisena has appointed a three-member committee headed by a retired Supreme Court judge to investigate the Easter Sunday bombings.
Judge Vijith Malalgoda will chair the committee, assisted by former Inspector General of Police N K Illangakoon, and P Jayamanna, a retired senior public servant.
‘Seven suicide bombers’ carried out church, hotel attacks
A Sri Lankan government forensic analyst told AP news agency that six of the bombings of churches and hotels on Sunday were carried out by seven suicide bombers.
Death toll rises to 290: police
The death toll from the Easter Sunday explosions in Sri Lanka has risen to 290 with almost 500 people wounded, a police spokesperson said on Monday.
The police added that the investigation into the bombings will examine reports that the intelligence community failed to detect or warn of possible suicide attacks before the violence.
Authorities also lifted a curfew that was in place overnight following the bombings. The streets in the capital, Colombo, were largely deserted on Monday morning, with most shops closed and a heavy deployment of soldiers and police.
More arrests made by the police
Police say they have now arrested at least 24 people in connection with Sunday’s bombings.
Police spokesperson Ruwan Gunasekara said that the individuals arrested, all locals, were being questioned by the Criminal Investigation Department.
Improvised bomb defused near Colombo airport: police
An improvised pipe bomb discovered close to Colombo’s main airport has been successfully defused, according to police.
The “homemade” pipe bomb was found late on Sunday on a road leading towards the main terminal, which remains open with heavy security after deadly attacks on churches and hotels.
Sunday, April 21:
‘No one can dry our tears today’
Sinan M Salahuddin’s uncle, 43-year-old Mohamed Rishard, was killed when an explosion hit the Shangri-La Hotel in Colombo. “He was my mentor, my guardian. It is a huge loss for us,” he told Al Jazeera.
Rishard, the owner of the automobile dealership Exotic Cars, left behind his wife, three teenage daughters and an 11-year-old son. “He started his business from scratch, he was a self-made man and always wanted to help others in need. He was a mentor to many,” said 29-year-old Salahuddin.
“His wife is devastated … No one can dry our tears today,” he said.
Police say 13 suspects arrested
Ruwan Gunasekara, a police spokesperson, said 13 suspects have been arrested in connection with the bombings in Sri Lanka
In a statement, Gunasekara said police have obtained a vehicle they suspect was used to transport the suspects into Colombo. Police also found a safe house used by the attackers, the statement added.
Gov’t ‘alerted to possible attacks before bombings’
Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has acknowledged that “information was there” about possible attacks before bomb blasts ripped through churches and hotels in Colombo and two other towns.
“While this goes on we must also look into why adequate precautions were not taken,” he said.
Eight people have so far been arrested in connection with the deadly blasts, Wickremesinghe said.
“So far the names that have come up are local,” he said, adding that investigators would look into whether the attackers had any “overseas links”.
Muslim groups condemn attacks
Two Muslim groups in Sri Lanka condemned the attacks on churches and hotels in the country on Easter Sunday that killed more than 200 people.
The Muslim Council of Sri Lanka said it mourns the loss of innocent people in the blasts by violent elements who seek to divide religious and ethnic groups.
|People light candles for the victims of Sri Lanka’s serial bomb blasts in Karachi, Pakistan [Akhtar Soomro/Reuters]|
The All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama , a body of Muslim scholars, said targeting Christian places of worship was unacceptable.
Indians, Turks, Britons among victims
The nationalities of 11 foreigners killed in the Easter Sunday blasts have been verified, Sri Lanka’s foreign ministry said.
They include three Indians, one Portuguese national, two Turkish nationals, three British nationals and two holding US and British nationalities.
Nine foreigners were reported missing, the statement added.
Family members of victims were given a chance to identify the bodies of their loved ones, as body bags were lined up outside the St Anthony’s Shrine in Colombo late on Sunday evening.
“There were absolutely heart-wrenching scenes,” said Al Jazeera’s Minelle Fernandez, reporting from the church. “Hundreds of people were wailing at the top of their voices as families who were looking for missing loved ones were allowed to look at the fatalities from this church.”
“Many of the people still do not where their loved ones are,” she added.
|Sri Lanka Easter bombings: At least 207 killed, 402 injured (6:22)|
UK says citizens caught in bombings
The British high commissioner to Sri Lanka said the UK government understands that “some British citizens were caught in the blasts” but it is too soon to say how many might have been affected.
James Dauris urged Britons to get in touch with family members to let them know they are safe.
Two Turkish engineers killed in blasts
Two Turkish citizens were among those killed in bomb blasts at three churches and four hotels in Sri Lanka, according to Turkey’s state media service, the Anadolu Agency.
The Turks were engineers working on a project in Sri Lanka, Anadolu reported.
Chinese national killed in attacks
One Chinese national was killed during the attacks on Sri Lankan churches and hotels on Sunday, Chinese state newspaper People’s Daily said.
Earlier, the state news agency Xinhua said four Chinese nationals were injured, but were in a stable condition in hospital.
Seven suspects arrested
The defence minister says seven suspects linked to the blasts have been arrested as security was stepped up at Sri Lanka’s international airport.
PM calls emergency meeting
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has convened Sri Lanka’s top military officials at an emergency meeting of the National Security Council following the blasts. He has also called for an emergency convening of the nation’s parliament on Monday.
Pray for our nation. #PrayforSriLanka #SriLanka pic.twitter.com/aSG0meLE4T — 🇱🇰 Jai Raymond (@JaiTRaymond) April 21, 2019
Death toll rises to 185 people
Dr Anil Jasinghe, the health ministry’s director-general of health services, told Al Jazeera that 185 people have died in the attacks that targeted different parts of the country. The government has yet to confirm the new death toll.
‘Temporary’ social media ban
Sri Lanka’s government said on Sunday it would impose a “temporary” social media ban in the wake of the blasts.
Social media networks and messaging apps, including Facebook and WhatsApp, have been blocked.
“The government has decided to block all social media platforms in order to prevent incorrect and wrong information being spread. This is only a temporary measure” Udaya R Seneviratne, secretary to the president, said in a statement.
Nationwide curfew imposed
Sri Lanka’s government imposed a nationwide curfew on Sunday that police said would go into effect immediately and would last “until further notice”, in the wake of coordinated attacks.
Sri Lanka’s defence ministry initially said the curfew would be imposed overnight, but the police subsequently said it would go into effect straight away.
Pope condemns Easter attacks
Pope Francis on Sunday condemned attacks that killed at least 156 people in three churches and four hotels in Sri Lanka as “such cruel violence” and said he was close to the Christian community, hit while celebrating Easter.
The blasts, which hospital and police officials said wounded more than 400 people.
Eighth blast suicide bomb: Police
The eighth blast in a string of explosions that hit Sri Lanka on Sunday was carried out by a suicide bomber and killed three police officers, a police source told AFP news agency.
The source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the suicide bomber detonated his explosives when police entered a house in a northern suburb of the capital Colombo to carry out a search.
The upper floor of the house collapsed in the blast, killing the police officers. The blast was the latest in a string targeting mostly hotels and churches that have killed at least 156 people in a single day.
Pictures of destruction
Sri Lanka, a popular tourist destination, is reeling from its worst attacks in a decade.
At least 75 people were killed in attacks on two churches – St Sebastian’s gothic-style Catholic church north of Colombo and an evangelical church in Batticaloa in Eastern Province, with pictures showing bodies on the ground, blood on the pews and a destroyed roof.
Read more here.
PM condemns bombings
Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has condemned the attacks, saying they are ” an attempt to make the country and its economy unstable”.
“On behalf of the Government, I would like to offer my deepest sympathies to the injured persons and the relations of the deceased consequent to the recent attacks occurred this morning,” his statement said.
“I condemn these attacks which targeted religious places and some hotels. We all should join hands to protect law and order. I have already instructed the Secretary / Defence, Tri Forces Commanders and the Inspector General of Police to take stringent action to ensure law and order in the country,” Wickremesinghe’s statement added.
SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies