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World Attacks in Sri Lanka: What we know so far about the bombings

Mourners attend the funeral of Dhami Brindya, 13, one victim of a string of suicide bomb attacks on churches and luxury hotels on Easter Sunday, in Negombo, Sri Lanka, on April 25, 2019.

ATHIT PERAWONGMETHA/Reuters

Nine explosions on Easter Sunday killed 257 people and wounded 500 more at churches, hotels and other locations in the Sri Lankan capital, Colombo, and two other cities. Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the co-ordination of the attacks, though out of the dozens of people being held by police in the aftermath, only a few are not Sri Lankan.

How the scene unfolded

Within 20 minutes of each other on Easter Sunday morning, seven suicide bombers attacked three churches and three luxury hotels, according to a Sri Lankan government forensic analysis. Hours later, two more bombings took place, then another when occupants of a safe house tried to evade capture.

The bombs ripped through churches and hotels in the cities of Colombo, Negombo and Batticaloa as the island nation’s Christian minority was celebrating Easter.

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The explosions collapsed ceilings and blew out windows, killing worshippers and hotel guests in one scene after another of smoke, soot, blood, broken glass, screams and wailing alarms. Victims were carried out of blood-spattered pews.

“There was blood everywhere,” one witness said.

The overwhelming majority of victims were Sri Lankan, but local authorities said 42 foreign tourists were among the dead. None were Canadian.

Sri Lanka bombings

Easter Day bomb blasts at three Sri Lankan churches and four hotels killed 257 people and wounded around 500 following a lull in major attacks since the end of the civil war 10 years ago.

LOCATIONS WITH REPORTED ATTACKS

St. Sebastian’s Church

Scores of people killed in gothic-style Catholic Church

INDIA

Batticaloa

Dozens killed in evangelical church

SRI LANKA

Main map

Tropical Inn Hotel

near Dehiwala Zoo

0

100

KM

0

500

KM

St. Anthony’s

Shrine

COLOMBO

The Kingsbury

Colombo

Dematagoda

Explosion at

a residential

address

Colombo Fort

Railway Station

Shangri-La Hotel

Colombo

UNION PLACE

Cinnamon Grand

Colombo

sourcE: reuters

Sri Lanka bombings

Easter Day bomb blasts at three Sri Lankan churches and four hotels killed 257 people and wounded around 500 following a lull in major attacks since the end of the civil war 10 years ago.

LOCATIONS WITH REPORTED ATTACKS

St. Sebastian’s Church

Scores of people killed in gothic-style Catholic Church

INDIA

Batticaloa

Dozens killed in evangelical church

SRI LANKA

Main map

Tropical Inn Hotel

near Dehiwala Zoo

0

100

KM

0

500

KM

St. Anthony’s

Shrine

COLOMBO

The Kingsbury

Colombo

Colombo Fort

Railway Station

Dematagoda

Explosion at

a residential

address

GNANARTHA PRADEEPA MAWATHA

Shangri-La Hotel

Colombo

UNION PLACE

Cinnamon Grand

Colombo

sourcE: reuters

Sri Lanka bombings

St. Sebastian’s Church

Scores of people killed in gothic-style Catholic Church

Easter Day bomb blasts at three Sri Lankan churches and four hotels killed 257 people and wounded around 500 following a lull in major attacks since the end of the civil war 10 years ago.

Batticaloa

Dozens killed in evangelical church

LOCATIONS WITH REPORTED ATTACKS

0

500

SRI LANKA

KM

Main map

St. Anthony’s

Shrine

Tropical Inn Hotel

near Dehiwala Zoo

0

50

KM

Dematagoda

Explosion at

a residential

address

Old Parliament

Building

COLOMBO

The Kingsbury

Colombo

Colombo Fort

Railway Station

BASELINE RD

Beira Lake

GNANARTHA PRADEEPA MAWATHA

Kiriwaththuduwa

Slave

Island

Shangri-La Hotel

Colombo

GALLE RD

UNION PLACE

Cinnamon Grand

Colombo

Viharamadevi

Park

sourcE: reuters

Two days after the attacks, the Islamic State claimed responsibility and released a video that showed eight men, all but one with their faces covered, standing under a black Islamic State flag. The man whose face could be seen in the video has been identified as Zahran Hashim, a preacher from the east of Sri Lanka known for his militant views and Facebook posts who officials believe was the mastermind of the attack. A picture has emerged of a group of nine well-educated, homegrown Islamist suicide bombers, including a woman, who carried out the attacks.

Information about victims of bombing attacks emerges

A cabinet minister says that the government believes the attacks were an act of retaliation for the shootings in March that killed 50 people at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Political reaction to the bloodshed

World leaders, including U.S. President Donald Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, posted tweets of support for Sri Lanka soon after the tragedy.

Two Muslim groups in Sri Lanka condemned the church attacks, and Pope Francis expressed condolences at the end of his traditional Easter Sunday blessing in Rome.

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Meanwhile, the country’s Health Minister accused officials of ignoring warnings in the weeks before the blasts. Rajitha Senaratne said international intelligence agencies warned of the attacks several times starting April 4. On April 9, the defence ministry wrote to the police chief with intelligence that included the name of the militant group National Thowfeek Jamaath, he said. On April 11, police wrote to the heads of security of the judiciary and diplomatic security division, Mr. Senaratne added.

President Maithripala Sirisena denied he had knowledge of the warnings before he embarked on an overseas trip on April 15. “Had I known about this, I would have taken appropriate action, and not gone overseas,” he said.

Canada closed the high commission in Colombo on Easter Monday for security reasons and issued a travel advisory. Still, some Canadian residents are prepared to fly there to connect with loved ones affected by the blast, said Saliya Tissera, president of the Sinhalese Association of Canada. More than 150,000 people in Canada identify as being of Sri Lankan origin.

The context of religious and political conflict

Sri Lanka is known for its tremendous natural beauty, which attracted more than two million tourists in 2018. But its people have long borne a burden of violence.

Sri Lanka, situated off the southern tip of India, is about 70 per cent Buddhist. While there have been scattered incidents of anti-Christian harassment in recent years, there has been nothing on the scale of what happened on Easter Sunday.

Sri Lankan forces defeated the Tamil Tiger rebels in 2009, ending a civil war that took over 100,000 lives, with both sides accused of grave human rights violations.

Opinion: In Sri Lanka, discrimination and conflict fostered the conditions for terrorism

More recently, Muslims, who make up roughly 10 per cent of the country’s population, have been targeted by violence fuelled by rumours spread over social media about attacks on Buddhists. In 2018, mobs of Buddhists swept through small towns, attacking mosques and Muslim-owned shops, prompting the government to briefly declare a state of emergency.

Religion in Sri Lanka

The South Asian nation of about 22 million people is predominantly Buddhist but has Christian, Muslim and Hindu populations of between about 8 and 12 per cent.

Percentage distribution of population

by religion per district

As of 2012 census

0

50

100%

Buddhists

Hindus

Jaffna

Kilinochchi

Colombo

Catholics and

other Christians

Muslims

Trincomalee

Mannar

Ampara

ACROSS THE COUNTRY

70.1%

12.6

9.7

7.6

SOURCE: REUTERS

Religion in Sri Lanka

The South Asian nation of about 22 million people is predominantly Buddhist but has Christian, Muslim and Hindu populations of between about 8 and 12 per cent.

Percentage distribution of population

by religion per district

As of 2012 census

0

50

100%

Buddhists

Hindus

Jaffna

Kilinochchi

Colombo

Catholics and

other Christians

Muslims

Trincomalee

Mannar

Ampara

ACROSS THE COUNTRY

70.1%

12.6

9.7

7.6

SOURCE: REUTERS

Religion in Sri Lanka

The South Asian nation of about 22 million people is predominantly Buddhist but has Christian, Muslim and Hindu populations of between about 8 and 12 per cent.

Percentage distribution of population by religion per district

As of 2012 census

0

50

100%

Catholics and

other Christians

Buddhists

Hindus

Muslims

Jaffna

Trincomalee

Kilinochchi

Mannar

Ampara

Colombo

ACROSS THE COUNTRY

70.1%

12.6%

9.7%

7.6%

SOURCE: REUTERS

Compiled by Globe staff. The Associated Press, The Canadian Press, Reuters, The New York Times News Service, with a report from Vjosa Isai.

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