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Sri Lanka in fear of further attacks by Islamic jihadists

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Sri Lanka in fear of further attacks by Islamic jihadists

PostAuthor: Anthea » Sun Apr 21, 2019 11:13 am

Sri Lanka explosions: 137 killed
as churches and hotels targeted


At least 137 people have been killed and hundreds more injured in explosions at churches and hotels in Sri Lanka, police and hospital sources say

At least eight blasts were reported. Three churches in Negombo, Batticaloa and Colombo's Kochchikade district were targeted during Easter services.

The Shangri-La, Kingsbury, Cinnamon Grand and a fourth hotel, all in Colombo, were also hit.

A curfew has been imposed from 18:00 to 06:00 local time (12:30-00:30 GMT).

The government also said there would a temporary block on the use of major social media networks.

No group has yet said it was responsible for the attacks.

What's the latest from the scene?

St Sebastian's church in Negombo was severely damaged. Images on social media showed its inside, with a shattered ceiling and blood on the pews. At least 67 people are reported to have died there.

There were heavy casualties too at the site of the first blast in St Anthony's, a hugely popular shrine in Kochchikade, a district of Colombo.

Among those killed in Colombo were at least nine foreign nationals, hospital sources told the BBC.

Hospital sources in Batticaloa said at least 27 people had died there.

A hotel official at the Cinnamon Grand, near the prime minister's official residence, told AFP the explosion there had ripped through a restaurant, killing at least one person.

A seventh explosion was later reported at a hotel near the zoo in Dehiwala, southern Colombo, with police sources reporting two deaths. The zoo has been closed.

An eighth explosion has been reported in the Colombo district of Dematagoda. Media reports say it was suicide bomber and that three people were killed. A number of arrests have also reportedly been made.

Colombo resident Usman Ali told the BBC there were massive queues as he joined people trying to donate blood.

He said: "Everyone had just one intention and that was to help the victims of the blast, no matter what religion or race they may be. Each person was helping another out in filling forms."

No-one was expecting this

BBC Sinhala's Azzam Ameen at St Anthony's

Rumours have been reported of more attacks and police have told people to stay inside their houses and remain calm. But there is some element of panic.

There is a heavy military presence in front of all major state buildings. No-one was expecting this, it was a peaceful Sunday morning - everyone was going to Easter services.

I've spoken to several priests who were in the church and they were really shocked, as were the police officers.

It was a well-planned, co-ordinated attack but I spoke to the security chief who was there and officials believe it's too early to say who is behind it.

After the Tamil Tigers were defeated in 2009, Sri Lanka hasn't really seen this kind of incident.

What have officials said?

President Maithripala Sirisena has issued a statement calling for people to remain calm and support the authorities in their investigations.

PM Ranil Wickremesinghe is chairing an emergency meeting. He said: "I strongly condemn the cowardly attacks on our people today. I call upon all Sri Lankans during this tragic time to remain united and strong."

Announcing the curfew, Defence Minister Ruwan Wijewardane said: "We will take all necessary action against any extremist group that is operating in our country."

He also said that "all the culprits" had been identified and would be "taken into custody as soon as possible" but gave no further details.

Another minister, Harsha de Silva, described "horrible scenes" at St Anthony's Shrine in Kochchikade, saying he had seen "many body parts strewn all over".

Pope Francis, in his traditional Urbi et Orbi speech at the Vatican, condemned the attacks as "such cruel violence" which had targeted Christians celebrating Easter.

Cardinal Archbishop of Colombo, Malcolm Ranjith, told the BBC: "It's a very difficult and a very sad situation for all of us because we never expected such a thing to happen and especially on Easter Sunday."

''A very, very sad day for all of us"

UK PM Theresa May tweeted condolences, saying the "acts of violence against churches and hotels in Sri Lanka are truly appalling".

US President Donald Trump tweeted "heartfelt condolences" for the "horrible terrorist attacks".

What's Sri Lanka's recent history?

In the years since the end of Sri Lanka's civil war in 2009, there has been some sporadic violence, with members of the majority Buddhist Sinhala community attacking mosques and Muslim-owned properties. That led to a state of emergency being declared in March 2018.

The civil war ended with the defeat of the Tamil Tigers, who had fought for 26 years for an independent homeland for the minority ethnic Tamils. The war is thought to have killed between 70,000 and 80,000 people.

Religion in Sri Lanka

Theravada Buddhism is Sri Lanka's biggest religion, making up about 70.2% of the population, according to the most recent census.

It is the religion of Sri Lanka's Sinhalese majority. It is given primary place in the country's laws and is singled out in the constitution.

Hindus and Muslims make up 12.6% and 9.7% of the population respectively.

Sri Lanka is also home to about 1.5 million Christians, according to the 2012 census, the vast majority of them Roman Catholic.

Are you in Sri Lanka? Have you been affected by the attacks? Only if it is safe to do so, please contact haveyoursay@bbc.co.uk

Please include a contact number if you are willing to speak to a BBC journalist. You can also contact us in the following ways:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-48001720
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Sri Lanka in fear of further attacks by Islamic jihadists

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Re: Sri Lanka explosions 137 killed churches and hotels targ

PostAuthor: Anthea » Sun Apr 21, 2019 11:22 am

At least eight blasts hit locations including churches and hotels across Sri Lanka with at least 137 dead and many more injured

The five-star Shangri-La, Kingsbury and Cinnamon Grand hotels in the heart of Colombo were targeted

Congregations were taking part in Easter Sunday services at the churches when the blasts hit

The death toll could rise significantly as hospitals report casualty figures
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Re: Sri Lanka explosions 137 killed churches and hotels targ

PostAuthor: Anthea » Sun Apr 21, 2019 11:33 am

Bombs kill 138, wound hundreds in Easter
attacks on Sri Lanka churches, hotels


COLOMBO (Reuters) - Easter Day bomb blasts at three Sri Lankan churches and four hotels killed 138 people and wounded more than 400, hospital and police officials said, following a lull in major attacks since the end of the civil war 10 years ago

The explosions, some of which officials said were suicide bomb attacks, led to an immediate clampdown, with the government declaring a curfew and blocking access to most major social media and messaging sites.

It was unclear when the curfew would be lifted.

More than 50 people were killed in St. Sebastian's gothic-style Catholic church in Katuwapitiya, north of Colombo, a police official told Reuters, with pictures showing bodies on the ground, blood on the pews and a destroyed roof.

Media reported 25 people were also killed in an attack on an evangelical church in Batticaloa in Eastern Province.

The three hotels hit were the Shangri-La Colombo, Kingsbury Hotel in Colombo and the Cinnamon Grand Colombo. It was unclear whether there were any casualties in the hotels.

The first six explosions were all reported within a short period in the morning just as church services were starting.

Nine foreigners were among the dead, the officials said.

Early in the afternoon, police reported there had been two more explosions. One was at a hotel near the national zoo in the Dehiwela area near Colombo.

A witness told local TV he saw some body parts, including a severed head, lying on the ground near the hotel.

The other explosion was in a house in Colombo, authorities said.

There were no immediate claims of responsibility for the attacks in a country which was at war for decades with Tamil separatists until 2009 during which bomb blasts in the capital were common.

Explosions have hit three churches and three hotels in and around the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo killing at least 138 people.

Christian groups say they have faced increasing intimidation from some extremist Buddhist monks in recent years. And last year, there were clashes between the majority Sinhalese Buddhist community and minority Muslims, with some hardline Buddhist groups accusing Muslims of forcing people to convert to Islam.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe called a national security council meeting at his home for later in the day.

"I strongly condemn the cowardly attacks on our people today. I call upon all Sri Lankans during this tragic time to remain united and strong," he said in a Tweet.

"Please avoid propagating unverified reports and speculation. The government is taking immediate steps to contain this situation."

President Maithripala Sirisena said he had ordered the police special task force and military to investigate who was behind the attacks and their agenda.

The military had been deployed, according to a military spokesman, and security stepped up at Colombo's international airport.

ATTACKS ON CHRISTIANS

One of the explosions was at St. Anthony's Shrine, a Catholic Church in Kochcikade, Colombo, a tourist landmark.

St. Sebastian's posted pictures of destruction inside the church on its Facebook page, showing blood on pews and the floor, and requested help from the public.

Last year, there were 86 verified incidents of discrimination, threats and violence against Christians, according to the National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka (NCEASL), which represents more than 200 churches and other Christian organizations.

This year, the NCEASL recorded 26 such incidents, including one in which Buddhist monks allegedly attempted to disrupt a Sunday worship service, with the last one reported on March 25.

Out of Sri Lanka's total population of around 22 million, 70 percent are Buddhist, 12.6 percent Hindu, 9.7 percent Muslim and 7.6 percent Christian, according to the country's 2012 census.

In its 2018 report on Sri Lanka's human rights, the U.S. State Department noted that some Christian groups and churches reported they had been pressured to end worship meetings after authorities classified them as "unauthorized gatherings".

The report also said Buddhist monks regularly tried to close down Christian and Muslim places of worship, citing unidentified sources.

Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith, the archbishop of Colombo, told local TV that the public should remain calm and asked authorities to bring those responsible for the attacks before the law. He also requested the public donate blood for the injured.

Education Minister Akila Viraj Kariyawasam announced that all schools would be closed on Monday and Tuesday.

The heads of major governments condemned the attacks. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said "there is no place for such barbarism in our region". Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said in a tweet that "this is an assault on all of humanity”.

Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ on Easter Day after his death on the cross.

Link to Article - Many Sad Photos:

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/world/bo ... ar-BBW8BGd
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Re: Sri Lanka explosions 137 killed churches and hotels targ

PostAuthor: Anthea » Sun Apr 21, 2019 11:39 am

Seven arrested as death toll grows

The defence minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, says seven people have been arrested in connection with the attacks. He says at least 160 people have been killed, including close to 30 foreigners.
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Re: Sri Lanka explosions 207 killed churches and hotels targ

PostAuthor: Anthea » Sun Apr 21, 2019 12:15 pm

Easter Sunday is the Holiest day in the Christian calendar

As a non-Christian, I find Christians to be harmless and friendly

Christians in Sri Lanka are a tiny inoffensive group totally undeserving of such attacks

The Guardian has regular live updates

https://www.theguardian.com/world/live/ ... tel-blasts
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Re: Sri Lanka explosions 207 killed churches and hotels targ

PostAuthor: Anthea » Sun Apr 21, 2019 1:27 pm

Brits among 207 killed in terror attack on 8 Sri Lankan churches & hotels

Nearly 500 were injured when suicide bomb blasts ripped through multiple buildings in Colombo - where tourists were staying and Christian worshippers had gathered for morning mass.

Among the dead are 35 foreigners, local reports say, including nationals from the UK, US, China, Netherlands and Portugal.

A terrified British family told how they were caught up in the atrocity as their hotel became a target for the terror.

Julian Emmanuel and his family, from Surrey, were staying at the Cinnamon Grand when the bomb went off.

He told the BBC: "We were in our room and heard a large explosion. It woke us up. There were ambulances, fire crews, police sirens.

"I came out of the room to see what's happening, we were ushered downstairs.

"We were told there had been a bomb. Staff said some people were killed. One member of staff told me it was a suicide bomber."

WHAT WE KNOW SO FAR:

    At least 207 people killed after suicide bomb blasts at three churches and three hotels in Colombo, Sri Lanka

    A seventh and eighth explosion in Easter Sunday massacre hours after the first six

    Tourists from UK, US, China, Portugal and the Netherlands are among the victims - one Dutch, one Chinese and one Portuguese national have been confirmed dead

    Theresa May brands attack "truly appalling" as world leaders express sorrow

    Social media ban in place to prevent spread of misinformation, and night curfew imposed

    Culprits identified, says defence minister Ruwan Wijewardene, and seven arrested

    Pope Francis condemns the attacks in his Easter Sunday message

    It comes ten days after Sri Lanka's police chief issued alert on possible attacks to come

Three churches and three hotels - the luxury Shangri-La Hotel, Cinnamon Grand and The Kingsbury Colombo - were targeted in the devastating attacks.

Hours after the first six were reported, there have been two more fatal blasts in the city - an explosion at a hotel in Dehiwala which killed two, and another in a flats in Dematagoda which reportedly killed three police officers and led to arrests, taking the shocking attacks up to eight.

All of of the six explosions this morning - as Christians attended Easter mass - were carried out by suicide bombers, according to initial investigations.

Sri Lanka's minister of defence Ruwan Wijewardene said in a press conference: "We believe that all the culprits who have been involved in this unfortunate terrorist incident will be taken into custody as soon as possible. They have been identified, and they will be taken into custody as soon as possible."

He later confirmed seven people have been arrested over the string of deadly blasts.

Dozens of local people rushed to donate blood to help the wounded in the wake of the terrifying attacks, after witnesses reported seeing buildings shake in the explosions.

Shocking images from inside one of the churches show bloodied pews, a destroyed roof and bodies scattered on the ground - as all Easter services planned for this evening in the city were cancelled.

Attacked on Easter Sunday as thousands came to celebrate at church:

Father Edmond Tillekeratne told of the horrors he saw at St Sebastian's Church after an attack there.

He told CNN there were about 30 bodies lying in the church, and the ground was covered in rubble and shattered glass.

He said: "You can see pieces of flesh thrown all over the walls and on the sanctuary and even outside of the church."

The priest said the blast happened after Easter Mass, where he estimated more than 1,000 people had come to celebrate.

With the exact number of Brits caught up in the horrifying attacks unknown at this stage, a spokesman from the Foreign Office said: "We are aware of reports of a number of explosions in Sri Lanka, including Colombo, and we are urgently seeking information from the local authorities.

"British nationals in Sri Lanka should follow the instructions of the local authorities and check FCO travel advice for updates."

Britain’s High Commissioner to Sri Lanka James Dauris added in a statement: “We understand that some British citizens were caught in the blasts but we are unable to say how many people are, or might have been, affected.”

Worshippers were attacked at St Anthony's Shrine, a Catholic Church in Kochchikade, Colombo, St Sebastian's Church in Negombo, a majority Catholic town north of Colombo, and at Zion Church in the eastern town of Batticaloa - where more than 300 people are thought to have been injured.

Dozens of people in Sri Lanka reported a restriction on social media use this morning, following the explosions.

The government confirmed it has shutdown access to Facebook and WhatsApp - a tactic which has been used before in the country to prevent the spread of violence and misinformation.

A night curfew from 6pm to 6am is also in place in the wake of the attacks, the Sri Lanka defence minister announced, with no indication when it will be lifted.

ATTACK WARNINGS

It has emerged Sri Lanka's police chief warned of suicide bombers planning to hit "prominent churches" 10 days before today's attack.

Pujuth Jayasundara reportedly said: "A foreign intelligence agency has reported that the NTJ (National Thowheeth Jama'ath) is planning to carry out suicide attacks targeting prominent churches as well as the Indian high commission in Colombo".

The NTJ is a radical Muslim group in Sri Lanka that was linked last year to the destruction of Buddhist statues.


There has been no immediate claims of responsibility for the attacks in a country which was at war for decades with Tamil separatists until 2009, during which bomb blasts in the capital were common.

Last year, there were 86 verified incidents of discrimination, threats and violence against Christians, according to the National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka (NCEASL).

And there have been recent reports of clashes between Sinhalese Buddhist and Muslim communities, with some hardline Buddhist groups accusing Muslims of forcing people to convert to Islam.

EASTER SUNDAY MASSACRE

Today security officials told how six near simultaneous blasts hit three churches and three hotels popular with tourists.

It is the worst violence in Sri Lanka since the country's bloody civil war ended a decade ago.

The death toll in the shocking attack has risen to 207, according to Sri Lanka's deputy transport minister - with just one of the church attacks said to have seen 300 victims.

Prime Minister Theresa May said: "The acts of violence against churches and hotels in Sri Lanka are truly appalling, and my deepest sympathies go out to all of those affected at this tragic time.

"We must stand together to make sure that no one should ever have to practise their faith in fear."

The British High Commissioner to Sri Lanka condemned the "evil attacks", saying he was in a church service which was cut short by the blasts.

James Dauris tweeted: "Our prayers for the victims of these evil attacks, and for their families. Our thoughts are with the medical staff, police and all involved in the response."

All government schools will be closed and the airport locked down with only passengers allowed in the building, as the Sri Lankan Prime Minister calls for an emergency meeting.

Ranil Wickremesinghe wrote on Twitter: "I strongly condemn the cowardly attacks on our people today.

"I call upon all Sri Lankans during this tragic time to remain united and strong. Please avoid propagating unverified reports and speculation. The government is taking immediate steps to contain this situation."

Foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt tweeted: "I'm deeply shocked and saddened by the horrifying attacks on churches and hotels in Sri Lanka today.

"To target those gathered for worship on Easter Sunday is particularly wicked.

"My prayers are with the victims and their families, and with those assisting in the response."

Jess Phillips, MP for Birmingham Yardley, added: "To target Christians on this their most sacred day is evil. Sending love to Sri Lankans caught in this terror."

'COWARDLY TERROR ATTACKS'

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said: "Those affected by the appalling and despicable attacks on churches and hotels in Sri Lanka will be in the prayers of millions marking Easter Sunday around the world today.

"On this holy day, let us stand with the people of Sri Lanka in prayer, condolence and solidarity as we reject all violence, all hatred and all division."

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier wrote in a message to his Sri Lankan counterpart that he was "stunned and horrified" by the "cowardly terror attacks".

And New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, whose country suffered a devastating terror attack last month, said: "New Zealand rejects all forms of extremism and stands for freedom of religion and the right to worship safely."

As world leaders sent messages of sympathy to Sri Lanka, Russian President Vladimir Putin denounced the series of attacks on churches and hotels in Sri Lanka as "cruel and cynical".

And Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said: "I'm appalled by the horrific attacks in Sri Lanka, on Easter Sunday, the most important day in the Christian calendar."

US President Donald Trump tweeted "heartfelt condolences from the people of the United States to the people of Sri Lanka on the horrible terrorist attacks on churches and hotels", adding "we stand ready to help".

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena urged people to stay calm, adding: "I am shocked and saddened by the situation that has occurred."

Brits in Sri Lanka who need help are urged to call the High Commission in Colombo on +94 11 5390639, while people in the UK worried about friends or family should call the Foreign Office on 020 7008 1500.

Multiple buildings have been destroyed throughout the capital this morning - with hundreds of victims

The luxury Shangri-La Hotel in Colombo has been gutted by a bomb this morning

Sri Lankan police officers clear the road as an ambulance drives through carrying injured of church blasts in Colombo

https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/8907637/s ... ll-latest/
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Re: Sri Lanka explosions 207 killed churches and hotels targ

PostAuthor: Anthea » Mon Apr 22, 2019 9:03 pm

Sri Lanka attacks linked to foreign network

A wave of bombings that killed 290 people in Sri Lanka on Sunday was carried out with the support of an international network, officials said

The government has blamed a little-known local jihadist group, National Thowheed Jamath, although no-one has yet admitted carrying out the bombings.

Another 500 people were injured in the suicide attacks on churches and hotels.

Police arrested 24 people in a series of raids and the president's office declared a state of national emergency.

The emergency declaration, which comes into effect from midnight (18:30 GMT) on Monday, will give police and military extensive powers to detain and interrogate suspects without court orders.

On Monday, another blast rocked a street near a church in the capital, Colombo. Police were attempting to defuse explosives in a vehicle used by the attackers when it blew up. It is not yet known if anyone was hurt.

Sri Lankan authorities were warned about a bomb threat from National Thowheed Jamath a full two weeks before the attacks, cabinet spokesman Rajitha Senaratne said at a press conference.

He said that the warnings were not passed on to the Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, or his cabinet. Mr Wickremesinghe acknowledged that security services had been "aware of information" but had not acted on the information.

Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando told the BBC that the intelligence "never indicated it was going to be an attack of this magnitude".

"They were talking about isolated, one or two incidents. Not like this," he said.

He said "all important departments of the police" were informed about the warning, but acknowledged that no action was taken.

Suspicion of international support

Mr Senaratne said that authorities believed the bombers had international support. "We do not believe these attacks were carried out by a group of people who were confined to this country," he said, adding: "There was an international network without which these attacks could not have succeeded."

A later statement said President Maithripala Sirisena would ask for foreign help to track down the international links to the attackers.

"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," his office said.

A curfew is to be imposed from 20:00 (14:30 GMT) until 04:00 on Tuesday, the government said. A national day of mourning has been scheduled for Tuesday.

Sri Lanka's National Security Council said a "conditional state of emergency" from midnight would target "terrorism" and would not limit freedom of expression.

In another development, the US State Department issued revised travel advice urging greater caution, adding, "Terrorist groups continue plotting possible attacks in Sri Lanka."

How did the attacks unfold?

The first reports of explosions came at about 08:45 local time with six blasts reported within a small space of time.

Three churches in Negombo, Batticaloa and Colombo's Kochchikade district were targeted during Easter services. Blasts also rocked the Shangri-La, Kingsbury and Cinnamon Grand hotels in the country's capital.

Police did not release a breakdown of how many people were killed and wounded at each location.

All the attacks were carried out by suicide bombers, officials said.

Police then carried out raids on two addresses and there were explosions at both. One was in Dehiwala, southern Colombo, and the other was near the Colombo district of Dematagoda in which three officers were killed.

An improvised explosive device - a 6ft-long [1.8m] plastic pipe packed with explosives - was also found and defused near the airport in Colombo.

Police also recovered 87 low-explosive detonators from the Bastian Mawatha private bus station in Pettah, our correspondent reports.
What do we know about the attackers?

There was swirling speculation about who could be behind the attacks and the government restricted access to social media in the aftermath of the bombings.

National Thowheed Jamath was later named by a government spokesman as the main suspect.

The group has no history of large-scale attacks but came to prominence last year when it was blamed for damaging Buddhist statues.

Addressing reports that officials had had prior intelligence of forthcoming attacks, Mr Wickremesinghe said: "We must look into why adequate precautions were not taken. Neither I nor the ministers were kept informed."

A deep wound to the nation

Anbarasan Ethirajan, BBC News, Colombo

Very few here expected these massive attacks. The co-ordination, sophistication and timing may indicate international support, but it is not clear yet if National Thowheed Jamath, if it is indeed responsible, has links with global jihadist groups.

It is thought that some Muslim youths in Sri Lanka were radicalised after clashes last year in Kandy district between the majority Sinhala Buddhists and Muslims. Videos posted on social media showed hardline Islamists and Sinhala hardliners promoting hatred. But why were the Christians targeted? They are also a minority in Sri Lanka. Sri Lankan Muslims are baffled by the attacks, as well as nervous and afraid.

Sri Lanka has experience of such attacks - suicide bombers were used by Tamil Tiger rebels during the civil war. But the ruthlessness of the these new atrocities is a shock, and the number of dead is a deep wound to the nation, a wound that will take much time to heal.

Who are the victims?

The vast majority of those killed are thought to be Sri Lankan nationals, including scores of Christians who died at Easter church services.

The ministry of foreign affairs said it had identified 31 foreign nationals among the dead, with 14 unaccounted for. The death toll included at least eight British citizens and at least eight citizens of India.

They include three of the children of Danish billionaire Anders Holch Povlsen, a family spokesman confirmed to the BBC. Mr Povlsen owns the Bestseller clothing chain and holds a majority stake in clothing giant Asos.

British lawyer Anita Nicholson died alongside her two children, Alex, 14, and Annabel, 11, when a suicide bomber detonated a device in the breakfast queue at the Shangri-La hotel in Colombo.

Her husband Ben Nicholson survived. "I am deeply distressed at the loss of my wife and children," he said in a statement.

"Anita was a wonderful, perfect wife and a brilliant, loving and inspirational mother to our two wonderful children ... Alex and Annabel were the most amazing, intelligent, talented and thoughtful children and Anita and I were immensely proud of them both and looking forward to seeing them develop into adulthood."

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-48012085
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Re: Sri Lanka explosions 321 killed churches and hotels targ

PostAuthor: Anthea » Tue Apr 23, 2019 10:40 am

Mass funerals on Sri Lanka's day of mourning

Sri Lanka has held its first mass funeral as the country marks a day of mourning for the victims of Sunday's bomb blasts

The death toll from the attacks on churches and hotels has risen to 321 with about 500 wounded, police said.

The country has observed three minutes of silence and a state of emergency is in effect to prevent further attacks.

Sri Lanka's government has blamed the blasts on local Islamist group National Thowheed Jamath (NTJ).

Police have now detained 40 suspects in connection with the attack. A spokesman said they included a Syrian who was arrested "after the interrogation of local suspects".

What's the latest?

Defence minister Ruwan Wijewardene told parliament on Tuesday that "preliminary investigations" indicated the bombings were in retaliation for deadly attacks on mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, in March. He did not give any details.

Mr Wijewardene also said NTJ was linked to another radical Islamist group he named as JMI, but again he provided no further information.

Meanwhile, police in Colombo have been placed on high alert and told to search for a lorry and a van suspected to be carrying explosives, BBC Sinhala's Azzam Ameen said.

The mass funeral for about 30 victims took place at St Sebastian church in Negombo, north of Colombo, which was one of the places targeted in Sunday's blasts. Another funeral service was scheduled for later on Tuesday.

Earlier, a moment of silence was observed at 08:30, reflecting the time the first of six bombs detonated. Flags were lowered to half-mast and people, many of them in tears, bowed their heads in respect.

The state of emergency gives police and the military sweeping powers to detain and interrogate suspects without court orders - powers that were last used during the nation's civil war.

The government limited access to Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram after the blasts.

NTJ, the group named by the government as the main suspect, has no history of large-scale attacks but came to prominence last year when it was blamed for damaging Buddhist statues.

However, neither NTJ nor any other group has admitted carrying out Sunday's bombings.

Were warnings ignored?

Sunday's attacks have highlighted rifts in Sri Lanka's leadership, after it emerged that authorities were warned about an imminent threat.

Security agencies had been watching the NTJ jihadist group, reports said, and had notified police about a possible attack.

But Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and the cabinet were not informed, ministers said.

Cabinet spokesman Rajitha Senaratne said the information was not passed to Mr Wickremesinghe due to a rift between the prime minister and President Maithripala Sirisena.

However, it was not clear on Monday whether Mr Sirisena had been made aware of the warnings.

"Our understanding is that it was correctly circulated among security and police," Shiral Lakthilaka, a senior adviser to Mr Sirisena, told the BBC.

He said that the president had appointed a special committee led by a supreme court judge to investigate what had happened.

How did the attacks unfold?

The first reports of explosions came at about 08:45 local time on Sunday with six blasts reported within a small space of time.

Police have not yet released a breakdown of how many people were killed and wounded at each location.

All the attacks were carried out by suicide bombers, officials said.

Who were the victims?

Most of those who died were Sri Lankan nationals, including scores of Christians attending Easter Sunday church services.

One of the first victims to be publicly identified was Sri Lankan celebrity chef Shantha Mayadunne and her daughter Nisanga Mayadunne, who had posted a picture of the family having breakfast in the Shangri-La Hotel in Colombo shortly before the deadly blast.

Sri Lankan officials said 38 foreign nationals were among the dead, with another 14 unaccounted for. The death toll includes at least eight British citizens and at least 10 Indian nationals.

Three of Danish billionaire Anders Holch Povlsen's children were killed in the attack, a family spokesman confirmed to the BBC. Mr Povlsen owns the Bestseller clothing chain and holds a majority stake in clothing giant Asos.

China has issued an advisory to its citizens not to travel to Sri Lanka in the near future and the US State Department has also warned of possible further attacks.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-48019189
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Re: Sri Lanka Islamic jihadist group NTJ killed 321 injured

PostAuthor: Anthea » Tue Apr 23, 2019 11:38 pm

ISIS may be linked to Sri Lanka attacks

The Islamic State (ISIS) group may be linked to bomb blasts which killed 321 people and wounded 500 in Sri Lanka, the country's prime minister has said

Ranil Wickremesinghe said the government believed Sunday's attacks could not have been carried out without help from terror groups abroad.

The first mass funeral was held on Tuesday as Sri Lanka marked an official day of mourning for the victims.

ISIS claimed the attack on Tuesday, although did not provide evidence.

The claim came via the group's Amaq news outlet. Sri Lanka's government meanwhile has blamed the blasts on local Islamist group National Thowheed Jamath (NTJ).

"This could not have been done just locally," Mr Wickremesinghe said. "There had been training given and a coordination which we are not seeing earlier."

Police have now detained 40 suspects in connection with the attack, all of whom were Sri Lankan nationals.

A state of emergency remains in effect to prevent further attacks.

The nearly simultaneous attacks targeted three churches packed for Easter services and three major hotels in the capital, Colombo.

An attack on a fourth hotel on Sunday was foiled, Mr Wickremesinghe said. He also warned that further militants and explosives could still be "out there" following the attack.

Who could be behind the attacks?

ISIS said it had "targeted nationals of the crusader alliance [anti-ISIS US-led coalition] and Christians in Sri Lanka".

It provided no evidence for the claim but shared an image on social media of eight men purported to be behind the attack.

The group's last territory fell in March but even then experts had warned it does not mean the end of ISIS or its ideology.

Mr Wickremesinghe said that only Sri Lankan nationals had been arrested in connection with the attack so far, but that some of the attackers may have travelled abroad before the bombings.

''We, certainly the security apparatus, are of the view there are foreign links and some of the evidence points to that. So if the ISIS (Islamic State) claimed it, we will be following up on this claim," he added.

Police in front of St. Anthony's church Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Authorities have declared a state of emergency

Earlier, the country's defence minister Ruwan Wijewardene told parliament that NTJ was linked to another radical Islamist group he named as JMI. He gave no further details.

He also said "preliminary investigations" indicated that the bombings were in retaliation for deadly attacks on mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, in March.

NTJ has no history of large-scale attacks but came to prominence last year when it was blamed for damaging Buddhist statues. The group has not said it carried out Sunday's bombings.

The Sri Lankan government is facing scrutiny after it emerged the authorities were warned of about a possible attack.

Security services had been monitoring the NTJ but the prime minister and the cabinet were not warned, ministers said.

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena also said the reports were not shared with him, and has vowed to carry out a complete reorganisation of the security forces and the police.

'Targets in line with ISIS ideology'

Analysis by BBC Security Correspondent Gordon Corera

The Sri Lankan government has said locals from two known groups carried out the attack. But from the start - because of the scale and sophistication of it - they have also said they thought there was an external role.

In the past, ISIS has sometimes claimed attacks that it was not involved in or which it simply inspired. But the details from ISIS would seem to back up the government's assessment.

The choice of targets is much more in line with ISIS ideology than with the traditional types of communal violence seen in Sri Lanka.

There are still questions - did the local men affiliate themselves to ISIS or receive direct support? Did they travel to Syria or to other countries? The Sri Lankan government has said it believes some of them had spent time abroad, but how significant was that to the plot?

Answering questions like these will be important not just for Sri Lanka but other countries as they try and understand whether other relatively small, locally focused groups could be capable of transforming a threat into violence on such a massive scale.

Who were the victims?

Most of those who died were Sri Lankan nationals, including scores of Christians attending Easter Sunday church services.

Sri Lankan officials said 38 foreign nationals were among the dead, with another 14 unaccounted for. The death toll includes at least eight British citizens and at least 10 Indian nationals.

The mass funeral for about 30 victims took place at St Sebastian's church in Negombo, north of Colombo, which was one of the places targeted in Sunday's blasts. Another funeral service was scheduled for later on Tuesday.

A moment of silence was also observed at 08:30 on Tuesday, reflecting the time the first of six bombs detonated.

Flags were lowered to half-mast and people, many of them in tears, bowed their heads in respect.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-48028045
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Re: Sri Lanka Islamic jihadist group NTJ killed 321 injured

PostAuthor: Anthea » Mon Apr 29, 2019 9:55 am

Sri Lanka bans face coverings

A ban has been put in place but no specific mention of the niqab or burka was made

Sri Lanka has banned face coverings in public, following a spate of suicide attacks on Easter Sunday that killed at least 250 people and injured hundreds.

President Maithripala Sirisena said he was using an emergency law to impose the restriction from Monday.

Any face garment which "hinders identification" will be banned to ensure national security, his office said.

The niqab and burka - worn by Muslim women - were not specifically named.

The move is perceived as targeting the garments, however.

Sri Lanka remains on high alert eight days after Islamist attacks that hit churches and hotels.

Dozens of suspects have been arrested, but local officials warned that more militants remained at large.

How many people are affected?

Sri Lanka has a sizeable and centuries-old Muslim population - out of 21 million, just under 10% are Muslim.

Only a small number of women are thought to wear the face-covering niqab, or the burka - a one-piece veil that covers the face and body.

Last week a Sri Lankan MP had proposed a ban on women wearing the burqa, saying it should be outlawed on security grounds.

According to news outlet India Today, the All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama, an organisation of Muslim clerics in Sri Lanka, had also asked women to avoid wearing face coverings.

Over the weekend thousands of Sri Lankan troops stood guard on the streets, protecting churches and mosques.

Sunday church services were cancelled across the country as a precaution, but worshippers in the capital gathered to pray outside St Anthony's Shrine, which was badly damaged in the attacks.

The number of people arrested in connection with the bloodshed rose to 150. Sri Lankan authorities are also hunting for around 140 followers of the jihadist group Islamic State, which has said it was involved in the bombings, but has not given details.

On Friday, the father and two brothers of the alleged organiser of the attacks, Zahran Hashim, were killed in an operation by security forces.

Hashim, who blew himself up at a hotel in Colombo, founded an Islamist group, the NTJ, which authorities have said was behind the attacks.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-48088834
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