October 13, 2019

At least 200 dead in Easter Day attacks on Sri Lankan churches, hotels

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Sri Lankan firefighters stand in the area around St. Anthony’s Shrine after a blast in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Sunday, April 21, 2019. A Sri Lanka hospital spokesman says several blasts on Easter Sunday have killed dozens of people. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)

Easter Day bomb blasts at three Sri Lankan churches and four hotels killed at least 207 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.Seven people were arrested and three police officers were killed during a raid on a house in Colombo on Sunday, police and local media said.

“Altogether we have information of 207 dead from all hospitals. According to the information as of now we have 450 injured people admitted to hospitals,” Police Spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera told reporters in Colombo.

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.

President Donald Trump on Sunday offered condolences.

“138 people have been killed in Sri Lanka, with more that 600 badly injured, in a terrorist attack on churches and hotels,” Trump said on Twitter. “The United States offers heartfelt condolences to the great people of Sri Lanka. We stand ready to help!”

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.

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.

© 2019 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

For more on this story and updates go to: https://www.newsmax.com/headline/srilanka-bombings-churches-hotels/2019/04/21/id/912590/?ns_mail_uid=6952f1f9-507d-4a20-8cc0-0a1db158d76e&ns_mail_job=DM24537_04212019&s=acs&dkt_nbr=010502gkd49q

Related:

Pope Condemns Sri Lanka Easter Attacks as ‘Such Cruel Violence’

pope francis lights a candle

(AP)

Sunday, 21 April 2019 07:24 AM

Pope Francis denounced the “cruel violence” of the Easter Sunday slaughter of Christians and foreigners in Sri Lanka as he celebrated the most joyful moment on the Christian liturgical calendar by lamenting the bloodshed and political violence afflicting many parts of the world.

Francis skipped his homily during Easter Mass but delivered his traditional “Urbi et Orbi” (To the city and the world) speech highlighting conflicts in the Mideast, Africa and the Americas and demanding that political leaders put aside their differences and work instead for peace.

“May the one who gives us his peace end the roar of arms, both in areas of conflict and in our cities, and inspire the leaders of nations to work for an end to the arms race and the troubling spread of weaponry, especially in the economically more advanced countries,” Francis said from the loggia of St. Peter’s Basilica overlooking the flower-decked square below.

In a special appeal at the end, Francis lamented the “grave attacks” on Sri Lankan hotels and churches, which occurred just as the Christian faithful were celebrating Easter Mass that marks the resurrection of Christ following his crucifixion.

“I want to express my loving closeness to the Christian community, targeted while they were gathered in prayer, and all the victims of such cruel violence,” Francis said. “I entrust to the Lord all those who were tragically killed and pray for the injured and all those who are suffering as a result of this dramatic event.”

More than 130 people were killed and hundreds wounded following near-simultaneous blasts at three Sri Lankan churches and three hotels frequented by foreigners.

In his roundup of global conflicts, Francis warned that the world was increasingly becoming resigned to the ongoing conflict in Syria. He called for a “renewed commitment for a political solution” that would respond to Syrians’ need for freedom, peace and justice and allow for millions of refugees to return home.

In Yemen, he lamented how children in particular are “exhausted by hunger and war,” while in North Africa, Libyans are enduring a fresh round of fighting between rival forces battling for control of Tripoli, the capital

“I urge the parties involved to choose dialogue over force and to avoid reopening wounds left by a decade of conflicts and political instability,” he said of Libyan leaders.

Francis said he hoped the political and religious leaders of South Sudan would open a “new page in the history of the country” and work for reconciliation. Francis hosted South Sudan’s president and opposition leader for a remarkable retreat at the Vatican earlier this month, during which the pope bowed down and kissed their feet, begging them to work for peace.

And history’s first Latin American pope also offered prayers for Venezuelans and Nicaraguans experiencing political and economic hardship and “all those who lack the minimal conditions for leading a dignified and secure life due to a crisis that endures and worsens.”

The Vatican said popes sometimes either deliver an off-the-cuff homily on Easter Sunday or skip it altogether, given the lengthy speech and blessing that follows.

The 82-year-old Francis has just completed an exhausting few days of Holy Week commemorations, including travelling to a prison outside Rome to wash the feet of inmates on Holy Thursday, presiding over the Way of the Cross procession at Rome’s Colosseum on Good Friday and celebrating the Easter Vigil late Saturday night in St. Peter’s Basilica.

© 2019 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

For more on this story go to: https://www.newsmax.com/newsfront/pope-francis-easter-mass/2019/04/20/id/912572/?ns_mail_uid=6952f1f9-507d-4a20-8cc0-0a1db158d76e&ns_mail_job=DM24537_04212019&s=acs&dkt_nbr=010502gkd49q

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