'We are shell shocked': Relatives bury dead in Sri Lanka amid new security fears

By Thomas Peter and Sunil Kataria NEGOMBO, Sri Lanka (Reuters) - Sri Lankans wept and prayed on Tuesday as they buried their dead from suicide bomb attacks on churches holding Easter services and luxury hotels that killed 321 people in the country's worst violence in a decade. More than 1,000 mourners attended a memorial service at St. Sebastian church in the coastal city of Negombo, just north of the capital, Colombo, where more than 100 parishioners were killed as they worshipped on Sunday morning

Reuters April 24, 2019 07:06:09 IST
'We are shell shocked': Relatives bury dead in Sri Lanka amid new security fears

We are shell shocked Relatives bury dead in Sri Lanka amid new security fears

By Thomas Peter and Sunil Kataria

NEGOMBO, Sri Lanka (Reuters) - Sri Lankans wept and prayed on Tuesday as they buried their dead from suicide bomb attacks on churches holding Easter services and luxury hotels that killed 321 people in the country's worst violence in a decade.

More than 1,000 mourners attended a memorial service at St. Sebastian church in the coastal city of Negombo, just north of the capital, Colombo, where more than 100 parishioners were killed as they worshipped on Sunday morning.

The ceremony began with prayers and singing under a tent put up in the courtyard of the church, which had most of its roof torn away by the blast.

Pall-bearers wearing white carried in wooden coffins one by one, followed by distraught relatives. They gathered around the coffins, crying and comforting each other. Some needed help after they were overcome by grief and the heat.

Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, the archbishop of Sri Lanka who led the service, urged other churches to delay memorials amid fears that more bombers may be at large.

"The security forces have not cleared the situation yet ... there could be more attacks on public gatherings," he told reporters after the service.

Islamic State claimed responsibility for the coordinated attacks on three churches and three luxury hotels. The bombings were retaliation for attacks on mosques in New Zealand, a Sri Lankan official said.

Most of the 321 dead and 500 wounded were Sri Lankans, although government officials said 38 foreigners were killed.

'EVERYONE IS AFRAID'

After the service at St. Sebastian, 22 coffins were taken to a freshly dug burial site near the church. Onlookers watched the procession along with police and soldiers.

The coffins were lowered into individual graves. Among them was Vivian Irangani, 67, who had been dropped off at church on Sunday by her Buddhist husband.

"She was a kind-hearted woman who did not do wrong to anyone," said family member Supitha Weramunda.

Some of Irangani's six grandchildren placed white chrysanthemums on her grave, followed by her sobbing widower.

"We are all shell shocked. Everyone is afraid for their lives, afraid that after so many years of peace the ghosts of the past will come back," Weramunda said.

The bombs shattered a relative calm in the Buddhist-majority Indian Ocean island since a civil war fought by mostly Hindu, ethnic Tamil separatists ended 10 years ago, and raised fears of a return to sectarian violence.

Sri Lanka's 22 million people include minority Muslims, Hindus and Christians. The latter have largely avoided the worst of the island's conflict and communal tensions.

A senior Buddhist leader who attended the St. Sebastian service appealed for unity.

"Buddhism is about love and compassion, so is Catholicism. The roots are the same. I have come in this spirit," said Chief Incumbent of the Dharmayathanaya Temple, Venerable Elle Gunawansa Thero.

"In this country we are branches of the same river, of the same tree. We have to stick together," he said.

(Reporting by Thomas Peter, Sunil Kataria, Ranga Sirilal, Neeraj Khanna, Angie Teo; Writing by Darren Schuettler; Editing by Robert Birsel)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

Updated Date:

TAGS:

also read

France, Germany to agree to NATO role against Islamic State - sources
| Reuters
World

France, Germany to agree to NATO role against Islamic State - sources | Reuters

By Robin Emmott and John Irish | BRUSSELS/PARIS BRUSSELS/PARIS France and Germany will agree to a U.S. plan for NATO to take a bigger role in the fight against Islamic militants at a meeting with President Donald Trump on Thursday, but insist the move is purely symbolic, four senior European diplomats said.The decision to allow the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to join the coalition against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq follows weeks of pressure on the two allies, who are wary of NATO confronting Russia in Syria and of alienating Arab countries who see NATO as pushing a pro-Western agenda."NATO as an institution will join the coalition," said one senior diplomat involved in the discussions. "The question is whether this just a symbolic gesture to the United States

China's Xi says navy should become world class
| Reuters
World

China's Xi says navy should become world class | Reuters

BEIJING Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday called for greater efforts to make the country's navy a world class one, strong in operations on, below and above the surface, as it steps up its ability to project power far from its shores.China's navy has taken an increasingly prominent role in recent months, with a rising star admiral taking command, its first aircraft carrier sailing around self-ruled Taiwan and a new aircraft carrier launched last month.With President Donald Trump promising a US shipbuilding spree and unnerving Beijing with his unpredictable approach on hot button issues including Taiwan and the South and East China Seas, China is pushing to narrow the gap with the U.S. Navy.Inspecting navy headquarters, Xi said the navy should "aim for the top ranks in the world", the Defence Ministry said in a statement about his visit."Building a strong and modern navy is an important mark of a top ranking global military," the ministry paraphrased Xi as saying.