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Sri Lanka blasts Updates: UK’s royal family, South Africa’s Cyril Ramaphosa condemn attacks, hail medical, emergency services

Sri Lanka blasts Updates: The Indian High Commission in Colombo confirmed the death of one more Indian, named H Shivakumar

FP Staff April 23, 2019 00:16:50 IST
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Sri Lanka blasts Updates: UK’s royal family, South Africa’s Cyril Ramaphosa condemn attacks, hail medical, emergency services

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14:14 (ist)

Update: HD Kumaraswamy says four JD(S) workers confirmed dead in Sri Lanka attacks

Karnataka chief minister HD Kumaraswamy confirmed the deaths of four JD(S) workers from a seven-member team that was on a tour in Sri Lanka's Colombo.

He said, "I am deeply pained at the loss of our people in the #colombo attacks. Out of the seven missing after the #TerrorAttack, four have been declared dead. Their names are Lakshmana Gowda Ramesh, KM Lakshminarayan, M Rangappa, and KG Hanumantharayappa."

13:30 (ist)

Indians looking for missing kin in Sri Lanka tweet to Sushma Swaraj

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, who gained the reputation of being accessible for Indians at home and abroad via her Twitter account, has been responding to queries about missing family members after a series of explosions rocked Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday.

12:47 (ist)

RECAP: Kerala govt sends medical team to assist Sri Lankan authorities

The Kerala government has formed a medical team of 15 experts to assist Sri Lanka blasts victims. Discussions with the Ministry of External Affairs is underway to make necessary arrangements to send the team to Sri Lanka to assist the blast victims.

11:44 (ist)

Update: Govt officials say six blasts were carried out by 7 suicide bombers

The Associated Press quoted a Sri Lankan government forensic analyst as saying that six of the explosions that occurred in three churches, and three hotels on Easter Sunday were carried out by seven suicide bombers.

11:34 (ist)

HD Kumaraswamy mourns deaths of two JD(S) workers whom he 'knew personally'

Karnataka chief minister HD Kumaraswamy condoled the death of the two JD(S) workers in the series of explosions that rocked Sri Lanka on Sunday. He was quoted by ANI as saying, "EAM Sushma Swaraj has confirmed death of 2 Kannadigas, KG Hanumantharayappa and M Rangappa, in the bomb blasts in Colombo. I'm deeply shocked at the loss of our JD(S) party workers, whom I know personally. We stand with their families in this hour of grief."

11:19 (ist)

Andhra Pradesh tourists narrowly escape explosion at Shangri La hotel

Five people from Andhra Pradesh's Anantapur district had a narrow escape in the serial bomb blasts that rocked Sri Lanka on Sunday, killing over 200 people.
 

Amilineni Surendra Babu, who is the head of a construction firm, sustained minor injuries while his friends escaped unhurt when a bomb went off at Shangri-La Hotel in Colombo, where they were staying. The group, which was on a tour to Sri Lanka, was having breakfast at the hotel when a bomb ripped through the premises.

In the stampede that followed, Surendra Babu sustained minor injuries.

11:13 (ist)

Sri Lanka blasts bear resemblance to 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, says report

An explainer by Foreign Policy titled 'What’s Behind the Terrorist Attacks in Sri Lanka?'  drew parallels between the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks and Sunday's series of explosions in Sri Lanka. The report also said that the coordinated attacks on various locations suggested "a degree of sophistication, planning, funding, and reach."

The report added, "While authorities are still piecing together what happened, the blasts bear at least some resemblance to the November 2008 attacks in Mumbai, which simultaneously targeted two luxury hotels, a busy railway terminal, and a Jewish outreach center.

"According to Indian intelligence, the Mumbai attacks were designed not only to cause the highest possible number of casualties but also to target groups—such as Western tourists—that would lead to the greatest amount of international media coverage."

11:07 (ist)

Reuters recorded 86 incidents of discrimination, violence against Christians in Sri Lanka in 2018

An explainer by Foreign Policy titled ' What’s Behind the Terrorist Attacks in Sri Lanka?' said that Reuters cited the National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka, which represents more than 200 churches, as having "recorded 86 incidents of discrimination, threats, and violence against Christians last year."

09:16 (ist)

Global community extends solidarity to victims in Sri Lanka blasts

The Eiffel Tower went dark at the stroke of midnight on Sunday to pay tribute to those who were killed in the series of explosions across Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday. At least 290 people have lost their lives as per the latest toll count.

In Israel's capital Tel Aviv, the municipality building was lit with the Sri Lankan flag to honour the victims in the attack.

08:46 (ist)

Toll: Casualties rise to 290, over 500 injured

The toll from attacks on churches and luxury hotels across Sri Lanka rose significantly to 290, and about 500 people were also wounded, police told Reuters on Monday.

The toll overnight had stood at 207. Police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera declined to give a breakdown of those killed and wounded at each of the three churches and four hotels hit on Sunday, attacks that marked the most significant violence since a bloody civil war ended 10 years ago.

LIVE NEWS and UPDATES

Apr 23, 2019 - 00:06 (IST)

Security tightened in India’s southern states

Security in southern states, particularly in churches and other religious places, has been strengthened following the terror attacks in Sri Lanka.

Security has also been stepped up in sensitive locations in major cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Bengaluru and Goa, which is a major tourist destination, as a precautionary measure.

Additional security arrangements in churches and other major religious sites in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana have been made, a security official said.

PTI

Apr 23, 2019 - 00:04 (IST)

Prime minister kept out of intelligence briefings, says govt minister

A rift between Sri Lanka’s president and prime minister came under scrutiny after a series of bomb blasts, with questions over how the government handled a recent warning of an attack. The premier has been kept out of intelligence briefings since he fell out with the president, a government minister said.

Police had been warned this month about a possible attack on churches by a little-known domestic Islamist group, but Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe had not been told of the report.

It was not immediately clear what action, if any, was taken in response to the tip-off. “When we asked about the intelligence report, the prime minister was not aware of this,” said Senaratne, who also briefs reporters on the deliberations of the cabinet.

It was not clear if the president Maithripala Sirisena was aware of the report, while the prime minister was no longer invited to council meetings because of the rift, Senaratne said. “As a government we have to say very, very sorry and we have to apologise to the families and their institutions about this incident,” said Senaratne.

Reuters

Apr 22, 2019 - 23:15 (IST)

Sri Lanka's president Maithripala Sirisena has declared 23 April a national day of mourning.

AP

Apr 22, 2019 - 23:11 (IST)

Tight security at Sri Lanka’s Velankanni Church

Tight security cover has been provided to the Shrine Basilica at Velankanni and the ancient Danish Fort in Nagapattinam district in the wake of the serial bomb blasts.

Security has been strengthened in all the 53 coastal hamlets in the district. District police, coast guard, coastal security group and forest department personnel have commenced patrolling in coastal areas, an official said.

A 'three-tier' security cover has been provided to the Shrine Basilica and the Dansborg Fort at Tarangambadi. "Thorough vehicle checking is being conducted through the 19 checkposts in the district. In addition, people of the coastal areas have been requested to pass on information about the movement of strangers," he said.

Police said security has been stepped up in the temple town of Rameswaram in Ramanathapuram district.

PTI

Apr 22, 2019 - 23:07 (IST)

Blast occurred close to table as they sat for breakfast at Shangri-La

The blast took place close to the table as the group of JD(S) workers sat for breakfast at Shangri-La hotel in Colombo.

"Last morning while checking-in around 8 am, they have gone for breakfast and blast took place very close to their table," a relative of H Shivakumar, one of the victims of the blasts, said.

Sister in-law of Puttaraju, another name that figured among those missing, not wishing to share her name, said the family has no information about him yet. "He was associated with JD(S) and had left on Saturday night along with friends just for relaxing as election was over, he was about to come back on 24 April, but this has happened probably some time after they have reached there. We are waiting for information," she said.

PTI

Apr 22, 2019 - 22:24 (IST)

Britain’s royal family offer condolences

Queen Elizabeth II gave a statement through The Royal Family Twitter account to express condolences after the Sri Lanka bomb blasts. “Prince Philip and I were deeply saddened to learn of the attacks in Sri Lanka and send our condolences to the families and friends of those who have lost their lives,” the tweet read.

“I pay tribute to the medical and emergency services who are providing support to those who have been injured.  Our thoughts and prayers are with all Sri Lankans at this difficult time,” the Queen conveyed her message through Twitter.

Meanwhile, Duke and Duchess of Cambridge Prince William and Catherine said they were deeply saddened on learning about the ‘devastating attacks’. “Senseless acts like these in places that people would expect to be at their safest are truly horrifying," a tweet from The Kensington Royal Twitter handle read.

"Our hearts go out to the families and friends of those who have lost their lives, to the Christian community, and to the people of Sri Lanka at this tragic time. You are all in our thoughts and prayers," another tweet said.

Apr 22, 2019 - 21:59 (IST)

South Africa condoles killings; pledges to combat global terrorism

Expressing condolences over the killing of 290 people in Sri Lanka's worst terror attacks, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday pledged to intensify the fight against global terrorism.

In a statement, Ramaphosa said the people of South Africa were joined with the people of Sri Lanka during this difficult time. "The President condemns the attacks in the strongest terms and emphasises that in solidarity with the people of Sri Lanka, South Africa will continue to use its non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council to prioritise the fight against terrorism and extremist groups across the world," the statement said.

PTI

Apr 22, 2019 - 21:38 (IST)

Hotel Shangri-La, one of the sites of the blasts on Sunday, has been closed until further notice.

Apr 22, 2019 - 20:49 (IST)

Trump calls Sri Lankan PM to convey condolences

US President Donald Trump called Sri Lanka's Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on Monday to express condolences over the killing of nearly 300 people in suicide bomb blasts at churches and hotels.

The attacks on Easter Sunday, which Sri Lankan authorities believe were carried out by a local Islamist group, were "one of the deadliest terrorist events since the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States," White House spokesman Hogan Gidely said.

"Trump pledged United States' support to Sri Lanka in bringing the perpetrators to justice, and the leaders re-affirmed their commitment to the fight against global terrorism," said the White House in a readout of the call.

Agencies

Apr 22, 2019 - 20:44 (IST)

Sri Lankan rupee falls amid thin trade

The Sri Lankan rupee fell 0.4 percent on importers’ dollar demand in thin Monday trading, after deadly explosions on Sunday.

The Colombo Stock Exchange was closed on Monday due to Sunday’s attack. Investors kept away due to a curfew declared on Sunday. The currency ended at 174.60/70 to a dollar, weaker than Thursday’s close of 173.95/174.25, market sources said. The markets were closed on Friday for a public holiday.

Analysts expect both stocks and rupee to plunge after the Easter Sunday attacks.

Reuters

Sri Lanka blasts Updates: The Indian High Commission in Colombo confirmed the death of one more Indian, named H Shivakumar.

Three policemen, who were killed when a suicide bomber blew himself up causing the concrete floor of a two-storey building to crash on them in the Sri Lankan capital, have been posthumously promoted.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said after the blasts in Sri Lanka that fighting radical Islam terror is 'America's fight too'.

The first US national to be named dead in the blasts in Sri Lanka was Dieter Kowalski, an employee of education publishing company Pearson.

The wife and sister of the suicide bomber at the Shangri La Hotel in Sri Lanka were also killed in a separate suicide blast after a bomber blew himself up causing the concrete floor of a two-storey building to crash on them in a suburb in northern Colombo.

Government spokesperson Rajitha Senaratne said that each victim in the attacks will be paid 1 million Sri Lankan rupees (USD 5,722), while about 1,00,000 Sri Lankan rupees (USD 572) would be given for the costs of the funeral processions, The Sunday Times reported.

He said that the injured in the attacks would be paid between 100,000 Sri Lankan rupees (USD 570)- 300,000 Sri Lankan rupees (USD 1717). The spokesperson also stressed that all the damaged churches will be completely repaired by the government.

The Indian High Commission in Colombo confirmed the deaths of two more Indians in the attacks. The names of the deceased are Vemurai Tulsiram and SR Nagaraj, according to the High Commission's Twitter handle.

A bomb found inside a van parked in Kotahena, an area near the St Anthony's Shrine, was defused through a controlled detonation. No casualties were reported.

The US State Department revised its travel advisory, stating that terrorist groups may be plotting similar attacks.

Sri Lankan Special Task Force and Sri Lanka Air Force bomb disposal unit defused a suspected parcel inside a van near the St Anthony's Church, Kochchikade.

Sri Lanka Police recovered 87 low explosive detonators abandoned at the Bastian Mawatha private bus stand in Pettah, the police spokesperson said on Monday.

The National Security Council has ordered a conditional state of emergency, including Gazette clauses under the Prevention of Terrorism Act. The order will be imposed starting midnight on Monday.

Sri Lanka president Maithripala Sirisena is likely to delcare a nation-wide national emergency from midnight on Sunday, CNN-News18 reported.

The Sri Lankan government is seeking global assistance to investigate the possibility of the perpetrators of the crime having international links, reports said.

Documents seen by AFP show Sri Lanka's police chief issued a warning on 11 April, saying that a "foreign intelligence agency" had reported NTJ was planning attacks on churches and the Indian high commission.

Reports also said that Sirisena was likely to declare 23 April as the national day of mourning in tribute to the victims of the explosions on Sunday.

Health Minister and the government spokesman, Rajitha Senaratne, also said that all suicide bombers involved in the blasts are believed to be Sri Lankan nationals.

Seven suicide bombers were involved in eight blasts that targeted St Anthony's Church in Colombo, St Sebastian's Church in Negombo and Zeon Church in Batticaloa when the Easter Sunday mass were in progress. The explosions also struck three five-star hotels in Colombo — the Shangri-La, the Cinnamon Grand and the Kingsbury.

No group has claimed responsibility for Sunday's attacks, but police have so far arrested 24 people.

A local outfit identified as the National Tawheed Jamath is suspected of plotting the deadly Easter blasts that killed 290 people and wounded 500 others in the worst terror attack in the country's history, a top Sri Lankan minister said on Monday.

Health Minister and the government spokesman, Rajitha Senaratne, also said that all suicide bombers involved in the blasts are believed to be Sri Lankan nationals.

Speaking at a press conference, the minister said that the Chief of National Intelligence had warned the Inspector General of Police (IGP) regarding the probable attacks before 11 April.

"On 4 April, international intelligence agencies had warned of these attacks. The IGP was informed on 9 April," Senaratne said. He said that the local outfit identified as the National Tawheed Jamath — a radical Muslim group — is suspected of plotting the deadly explosions. "There may be international links to them," he added.

Karnataka chief minister HD Kumaraswamy confirmed the deaths of four JD(S) workers from a seven-member team that was on a tour in Sri Lanka's Colombo.

He said, "I am deeply pained at the loss of our people in the #colombo attacks. Out of the seven missing after the #TerrorAttack, four have been declared dead. Their names are Lakshmana Gowda Ramesh, KM Lakshminarayan, M Rangappa, and KG Hanumantharayappa."

The Easter Sunday attacks on three churches in Sri Lanka mark a devastating escalation of violence against a Christian minority that has been targeted in the past, but never to such brutal and deadly effect.

Ethnic and religious violence has plagued Sri Lanka for decades, with a 37-year conflict with Tamil rebels that claimed 100,000 lives and an upswing in recent years in clashes between the Buddhist majority and Muslims.

While there have been attacks on Christians, their community had been left relatively unscathed, with anti-Muslim riots — whipped up in part by hardline, right-wing Buddhists grabbing the headlines.

But that changed with Sunday's bombings on St Anthony's Shrine in Colombo, St Sebastian's in Negombo to the north of the capital and the church in the eastern city of Batticaloa.

All three were left in ruins, bodies slumped over pews or lined up in aisles, torn bibles strewn over the floor. Along with attacks on four hotels, more than 200 people were killed.

The Sri Lankan government on Monday ordered a new night-time curfew as tensions remained high after a series of suicide bomb attacks that left at least 290 dead.

The government information department said the curfew would run from 8.00 pm on Monday until 4.00 am on Tuesday. An indefinite curfew ordered Sunday after the attacks was lifted early Monday but a two-day holiday was decreed in a bid to reduce public traffic.

The Interpol on Monday said it is ready to offer full support to the Sri Lankan authorities in investigating the country's deadliest terror attack that killed 290 people in a series of eight blasts that tore through churches and luxury hotels in the country.

Interpol Secretary General Jurgen Stock in a Twitter message said, "Interpol strongly condemns the horrific attacks and has offered its full support to the investigation being carried out by national authorities."

Paris-based Interpol is an organisation which facilitates worldwide police cooperation. Stock said Interpol can deploy an Incident Response Team at the request of a member country to provide on-site support during a crisis situation.

Hours after the initial series of explosions in churches and hotels, police raided two addresses. There were explosions at both of these addresses, with three police officers killed at one location in a suicide blast. A home-made bomb was defused at the Colombo airport late on Sunday.

For many Sri Lankans, Sunday's attacks against churches and high-end hotels brought back painful memories of a conflict that lasted three decades and killed as many as 100,000 people.

During those years, bomb attacks were a regular occurrence, and left many Sri Lankans on edge in the streets and on public transport. In the capital, street sweeper Malathi Wickrama said Monday he was now nervous doing his job.

"Now we are afraid to even touch black plastic bags with garbage," he said. "The string of blasts yesterday brings back memories of the time when we were afraid to go in buses or trains because of parcel bombs."

With the lifting of a nationwide curfew early Monday morning, people began to emerge into Colombo's streets, where security was heavy.

The Associated Press quoted a Sri Lankan government forensic analyst as saying that six of the explosions that occurred in three churches, and three hotels on Easter Sunday were carried out by seven suicide bombers.

Karnataka chief minister HD Kumaraswamy expressed shock over reports of missing JD(S) workers from a team of seven in the Sri Lanka blasts on Sunday. Two others have been reported dead.

"I'm shocked to hear that a 7-member team of JD(S) workers from Karnataka, who were touring Colombo (Sri Lanka), has gone missing after bomb blasts. 2 of them are feared killed. I'm in constant touch with Indian High Commission on reports of those missing," ANI quoted him as saying.

The Ministry of External Affairs has confirmed that two JD(S) workers have died in the blast that occurred in Sri Lanka's capital Colombo on Easter Sunday. CNN-News18 reported that a team of seven JD(S) workers had gone to Colombo on 20 April, and also that five of them are missing.

The report also said that Karnataka chief minister HD Kumaraswamy said that he was "shocked" with the news of the missing JD(S) workers.

At least six Indians have been killed in a string of eight powerful blasts, including suicide attacks, which struck three churches and luxury hotels frequented by foreigners in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday, officials told PTI on Monday.

The police said on Monday that at least six Indian nationals have been reported among the foreigners who died in the blasts. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Monday identified two more individuals killed in the blasts on Sunday.

"We sadly confirm the deaths of the following two individuals in the blasts yesterday, KG Hanumantharayappa and M Rangappa," Swaraj retweeted the Indian High Commission in Colombo's tweet. On Sunday, Swaraj, in a series of tweets, identified the three Indians as Lakshmi, Narayan Chandrashekhar and Ramesh.

Sri Lankan authorities blocked most social media after Easter Sunday attacks killed more than 200 people, with officials saying the temporary move was meant to curtail the spread of false information and ease tensions.

The NetBlocks observatory said it detected an intentional blackout of popular services including Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp, Instagram, Snapchat and Viber.

The defense ministry said the shutdown would extend until the government concludes its investigation into the bomb blasts that rocked churches, luxury hotels and other sites.

Sri Lanka police on Monday said that the van which had carried explosives to carry out bomb attacks at the three hotels had been arrested with its driver. A safe house where the bombers had lived for nearly three months leading to the attacks were discovered in the south of Colombo suburb of Panadura.

Sri Lankan authorities have arrested 24 people from the minority Muslim community in connection with the multiple blasts that rocked the island nation on Sunday, killing over 290 people.

PTI quoted police spokesperson Ruwan Gunasekera as saying that the number of arrests on the incidents has now gone up to 24.

Sri Lanka prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe urged people to be united and coordinate with the security forces in their investigation into the Easter Sunday attacks that killed 290 people and injured hundreds more.

He also asked people to refrain from spreading fake news and misinformation as that would "divert" the time and efforts of the security forces "from bringing the perpetrators of the crime to justice".

Sri Lankan government has refused to disclose details of the 13 people who were arrested in connection with the bomb blasts. The decision has been taken to prevent them from getting publicity. “Don't give extremists a voice. Don't help to make them martyrs," State Minister of Defence, Ruwan Wijewardene, told reporters when asked for details of those in custody.

The toll from attacks on churches and luxury hotels across Sri Lanka rose significantly to 290, and about 500 people were also wounded, police told Reuters on Monday.

The toll overnight had stood at 207. Police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera declined to give a breakdown of those killed and wounded at each of the three churches and four hotels hit on Sunday, attacks that marked the most significant violence since a bloody civil war ended 10 years ago.

A memo that warned of a potential attack was circulated a day before the deadly explosions in Sri Lanka, reports CNN. The memo dated 11 April was signed by Sri Lanka's deputy inspector general of police. Titled Information of an Alleged Plan attack, the memo stated: "The State Intelligence service stated that information has been received regarding an alleged plan of suicidal attack by the leader of 'Nations Thawahid Jaman Mohomad Saharan.'"

An improvised pipe bomb discovered close to Colombo's main airport was successfully defused by the Sri Lanka airforce, police said. A police source told AFP that a "homemade" pipe bomb had been found late Sunday on a road leading towards the main terminal, which remains open with heavy security after Easter Sunday's deadly bomb attacks.

"It was a homemade bomb, with explosives put into a pipe," said the source. Airforce spokesperson Group Captain Gihan Seneviratne said the IED was believed to be locally manufactured.

The discovery comes after a series of eight devastating bomb blasts ripped through high-end hotels and churches holding Easter services, killing at least 207 people, including dozens of foreigners. "It was a crude six-foot pipe bomb that was found by the roadside," an air force spokesman said. "We have removed it and safely defused it at an air force location."

There were disruptions to flights, but Sri Lanka's national carrier Sri Lankan has already asked leaving passengers to report to check-in counters at least four hours prior to departure because of tight security checks at the Bandaranaike International airport.

The apparently coordinated attacks were the deadliest to hit the country in the decade since the end of a bloody civil war that killed up to 100,000 people and evoked painful memories for many Sri Lankans.

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