Easter Sunday carnage claims over 200 lives, nearly 500 wounded

Carnage in Katuwapitiya Church, Negombo

Suicide attack suspected at Katuwapitiya, curfew imposed



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By Rathindra Kuruwita


Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, yesterday, promised to inform the public, after consulting the police, whether any organised group was behind yesterday’s attacks that claimed 207 lives and injured over 450 people. Wickremesinghe said so, responding to a question posed by a journalist when he made a statement, at Temple Trees, on the incidents.


Wickremesinghe’s statement comes in the wake of attacks, at churches, hotels, a reception hall and at a residence in Dematagoda.


Former President and Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa said that it was the result of weakening the security under the current administration. "We defeated brutal terrorists and ensured the safety of the people. But those who played a significant role in this, including intelligence officers and security forces personnel, have been harassed and demoralised. I blame the government for taking us back to the dark ages of fear.


Nine of the deceased were foreign tourists, including four Chinese nationals. Police Spokesperson SSP Ruwan Gunasekera said that they suspected an organised group had carried out the attacks and that the CID has been entrusted with the investigations.


"All were bomb blasts and right now we suspect that the bomb in Negombo was a suicide attack. We cannot confirm it at this moment whether the others too were suicide attacks."


Three suspects, all Sri Lankans had been arrested in connection with the attacks, Gunasekera said. Their identities and whether they were linked to an international terrorism groups could most probably be revealed today or tomorrow, he said. Gunasekera added that steps had been taken to identify all those who died in the attacks and to expedite the postmortems.


Blasts rocked three churches, St. Anthony’s Church in Kochchikade, Kotahena, St.Sebastian’s Church in Katuwapitiya, Katana and Zeon Church, Batticaloa and three Colombo hotels, the Shangri-La, Cinnamon Grand and Kingsbury. Subsequent explosions took place opposite a reception hall near the Dehiwala Zoo and inside a house in Mahawila Gardens Dematagoda.


Three policemen from the Colombo Crimes Division (CCD) were also killed during the blast in Dematagoda while another policeman was injured. "We received information about some suspects when we were investigating the blasts in the three churches and Colombo hotels, which occurred between 8.30 and 9.45 am yesterday. Based on this information some CCD officials went to inspect the house and when they attempted to question the residents, an explosion took place. Three CCD officers died and it took us some hours to recover their bodies which were under the rubble," he said.


In response Inspector General of Police (IGP) Pujith Jayasundara imposed a curfew with immediate effect, around 3.30 PM, though it was to be enforced at 6 pm, Police Spokesman SP Ruwan Gunasekara said. The curfew will be in effect until further notice.


After a meeting at the National Security Council, the government has deployed forces to protect all places of worship, tourist hotels, hospitals, embassies, catholic leaders and other important buildings. Secretary to the President, Udaya R. Senevirathna said that a national operations centre had been established to lead the investigations and guide operations to arrest those behind the attacks. About 1,000 soldiers as well as a large number of policemen had been deployed.


"Steps have been taken to identify all those killed and to expedite their postmortems. The funerals of all those killed will be conducted with state patronage," he said, issuing a press release.


Meanwhile the government also decided to block all social media platforms to prevent the spread of misinformation and fake news. "State and private schools will also be closed today and tomorrow," Senevirathna said.


The tourism sector is expecting a devastating impact on the industry due to these attacks. Sri Lanka Association of Inbound Tour Operators (SLAITO) President Harith Perera said that yesterday’s attack was the first time that tourist hotels had been directly attacked. "This had not happened even during the war period. This will have a big impact on the industry as the summer holiday season is just coming up. This will create a lot of instability and it sent the wrong message," he said.


President of the Hoteliers Association Sanath Ukwatte said all hotels had taken necessary precautions following the attacks.


The Police Spokesperson said that the management and staff of hotels had been instructed to remain vigilant.


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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