Sri Lanka Blasts: Troops Find 15 Bodies in Raid on Hideout.

Vishal Chauhan, 27/04/2019
Sri Lanka Blasts: Troops Find 15 Bodies in Raid on Hideout.

Sri Lankan police have found at least 15 bodies, including six children, after a raid in east Sri Lanka on militants linked to the Easter bombings, reported AP. The police suspect that some of the dead likely were militants who blew themselves up in suicide bombings.

Earlier, a military spokesperson had said soldiers exchanged gunfire with suspects, gunning down two persons, after attempting to raid a building in Sri Lanka's Eastern Province as part of the ongoing investigation into the suicide bomb attacks.

Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on Friday apologised to public for failing to prevent the Easter bombings. Meanwhile, Sri Lanka’s defence secretary Hemasiri Fernando and police chief Pujith Jayasundara have both resigned over their failure to prevent the blasts despite having prior intelligence.

Catholic leaders have canceled Sunday Masses indefinitely across Sri Lanka and officials urged Muslims to stay home for Friday prayers in an extraordinary call by the clergy to curtail worship as fear of more attacks plagued the island nation.

Nine Suicide bombers, believed to be members of local Islamist extremist group called National Thowheed Jamath (NTJ), carried out a series of devastating blasts that tore through three churches and three luxury hotels.

Snapshot

  • Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena confirmed that wanted Sri Lanka radical cleric Zaharan Hashim died in hotel attack
  • The health ministry on Thursday, 25 April, night sharply revised the death toll downward to 253, saying the previous figure of 359 was due to a “calculation error”
  • A state of emergency remains in effect to prevent further attacks
  • The churches targeted include St Anthony’s Church in Colombo, St Sebastian’s Church in Negombo and another church in Batticaloa
  • The hotels targeted include the Shangri La, the Cinnamon Grand and the Kingsbury
  • At least 10 Indians were killed in the blasts

9:16 AM, 27 Apr

Sri Lanka Troops Find 15 Bodies in Raid on House

Police say that 15 bodies including six children have been found after a raid in east Sri Lanka on militants linked to the Easter bombings.

Police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekara gave the figures early Saturday after a gunfight between soldiers and the suspected militants near Sammanthurai.

The gunbattle began Friday night after police tipped off soldiers to a suspected safe house, where authorities say the militants set off three explosions and opened fire. At least three others were wounded in the attack.

Gunasekara says some of the dead likely were militants who blew themselves up in suicide bombings.

Earlier, the military said at least one civilian had been killed in the attack

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7:05 AM, 27 Apr

US Urges Citizens to 'Reconsider Travel' to Sri Lanka over Terror Threat

The US State Department on Friday raised the level of its travel warning for Sri Lanka, urging citizens to reconsider visiting the island in the wake of a devastating series of suicide bombings that killed more than 250 people.

The department has "ordered the departure of all school-age family members of US government employees in kindergarten through 12th grade," it said in a statement, adding that it had also authorized non-emergency personnel to leave.

"Terrorists may attack with little or no warning, targeting tourist locations, transportation hubs, markets, shopping malls, government facilities, hotels, clubs, restaurants, places of worship, parks, major sporting and cultural events, educational institutions, airports, hospitals, and other public areas," it said.

4:04 AM, 27 Apr

3-5 Year Imprisonment for Spreading Fake News About Sri Lankan Blasts: Report

The Sri Lankan government on Friday warned that anyone found guilty of spreading fake news and false propaganda about the Easter Sunday bombings that claimed 253 lives may be imprisoned for 3 to 5 years, following a growing number of incidents of public disturbance.

The national media center, in a statement, said that action will be taken against those who spread fake news and false propaganda regarding the situation in the island, Daily News reported.

It said a number of incidents of public disturbance were reported from several parts of the country due to the circulation of false information.

The police and the security forces have taken measures to take strict legal action against persons circulating such false information through websites and social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp.

The circulation of such false information creates disturbance and panic among the general public and also misleads the security forces, the report said, adding that the public is requested to refrain from involving in such activities.

Action will be taken against persons involved in circulating false information under the Emergency Regulations and anyone who is found guilty of committing such offences may be imprisoned to 3 to 5 years, it said.

Shortly after the bombings, the Sri Lankan government took the drastic decision to block social media.

To stop the spread of "false news reports", Facebook, Facebook-owned whatsApp and Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat and Viber were all banned.

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4:00 AM, 27 Apr

Sunday Mass Cancelled Across Sri Lanka a Week after Bombings

The archbishop of Colombo says there will be no Sunday Masses until further notice after the Easter bombings in Sri Lanka.

Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith made the comment during a news conference on Friday, 26 April, in the Sri Lankan capital.

Ranjith appealed for financial support to rebuild the lives of affected people and reconstruct the churches targeted in the Islamic State-claimed suicide bombings, which killed over 250 people on Sunday, 21 April.

The US Embassy in Sri Lanka has warned people to stay away from places of worship this weekend over concerns about possible further attacks.

Sri Lankan officials say they continue to search for suspects in the bombings.

On Friday, authorities urged Muslims not to hold congregational prayers over fears they might be targeted. However, several mosques did under the protection of security forces.

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(Source: AP)

3:56 AM, 27 Apr

We Take Collective Responsibility: Sri Lankan PM Apologises For Failing to Prevent Easter Attack

Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on Friday, 27 April, apologised to public for failing to prevent the Easter bombings that left 253 people dead and several hundreds injured.

In a tweet, Wickreme singhe said, "We take collective responsibility and apologise to our fellow citizens for our failure to protect victims of these tragic events." "We pledge to rebuild our churches, revive our economy, and take all measures to prevent terrorism, with the support of the international community," he added.

10:57 PM, 26 Apr

Three Fresh Explosions in Kalmunai

Three fresh explosions rocked Kalmunai city of Sri Lanka on Friday, 26 April, while security forces were carrying out search operations to nab the suspects of the Easter attacks, reported ANI. No casualties or damage to property has been reported yet.

Officials also exchanged gun fire and found explosives, ISIS flags and uniforms during the raids.

4:44 PM, 26 Apr

Sri Lanka Govt Predicts Huge Tourism Losses

Sri Lanka government has said it fears up to $1.5 billion tourism losses over blasts, reported news agency AFP.

1:47 PM, 26 Apr

Nine Pakistani Nationals among 76 Held: Report

At least nine Pakistani nationals are among the 76 people have been arrested in connection with the serial blasts in Sri Lanka, reported Hindustan Times.

Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, speaking to the newspaper, said that he will seek Pakistan's help to seek terrorists if needed.

“Pakistan has fully supported Sri Lanka’s war on terror. If necessary, we will seek their help to trace the terrorists and eliminate them. I see this tragic event as further strengthening the trust that exists between our countries and increasing cooperation,” he said.

11:36 AM, 26 Apr

Sri Lankan Police Chief Resigns After Bombings

Sri Lanka police chief resigns over serial bombings, reported AFP, quoting Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena.

10:21 AM, 26 Apr

Wanted Radical Clerical Dead, Sri Lankan President Confirms

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena confirmed that wanted Sri Lanka radical cleric Zaharan Hashim died in hotel attack, reported AFP.

2:32 AM, 26 Apr

Sri Lanka Revises Easter Blasts Death Toll to 253

Sri Lanka on Thursday night sharply revised downward the death toll from the Easter Sunday terror attack by more than 100 to "about 253", citing a "calculation error".

Authorities earlier said that nine suicide bombers, believed to be members of a local Islamist extremist group called National Thowheed Jamath (NTJ), carried out the devastating blasts that killed 359 people and wounded more than 500 others.

However, Dr Anil Jasinghe, Director General of the Health Services, said the larger death toll was released as a result of "a calculation error".

"The approximate total of the dead would be 253 and not 359 as reported in media," he said.

2:32 AM, 26 Apr

Sri Lanka Beefs up Security Around Mosques After Intelligence Inputs of Terror Attack

Meanwhile, security has been beefed up around "a certain category of mosques" after intelligence warning that the Islamist extremist group blamed for the Easter blasts was planning an attack on them during Friday prayers.

A letter, signed by DIG Priyantha Jayakody on behalf of Inspector General of Police Jayasundara, warned that the group which had carried out the Easter blasts was planning an attack on mosques on Friday, the Times Online reported.

The letter dated 24 April, 2018 said a certain category of mosques identified as 'Awliya Mosques' could be possible target for these attacks.

"Security has been tightened in the vicinity of all mosques owing to these possible attacks. Therefore, the public need not worry," Jayakodi said.

The letter was addressed to the Presidential Security Division, the Special Security Division, and the Prime Minister's Security Division urging that the matter be brought to the immediate attention of the relevant authorities.

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Chairman of the Dewatagaha Mosque in Colombo said that the State Intelligence Service has informed him of a possible threat by the group, which was involved in the Sunday's carnage.

He said that intelligence officers have also informed him that other mosques too would be warned of a possible attack in order for devotees to remain vigilant of possible threats.

Minister of Muslim Religious Affairs Abdul Haleem has requested the community members to avoid gathering for congregational prayers this Friday.

The Archdiocese of Colombo Thursday suspended all Catholic church services because of security concerns.

10:33 PM, 25 Apr

Sri Lanka Death Toll Around 250-260, Not 359: Health Official

The death toll in Sri Lanka’s Easter Day attack is around 100 fewer than the 359 originally thought, a top health official told news agency Reuters on Thursday.

“It could be 250 or 260. I can’t exactly say. There are so many body parts and it is difficult to give a precise figure,” Anil Jasinghe, the director general of Sri Lanka’s health services told Reuters.

8:52 PM, 25 Apr

Easter Attack May Be in Planning For 7-8 Years: Field Marshal Fonseka

The Islamist extremist group behind the deadly Easter Sunday blasts in Sri Lanka would have been planning the suicide attacks for "at least 7 to 8 years" and could be led by someone having the calibre of slain LTTE supremo Velupillai Prabakaran, news agency PTI reported quoting Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka.

Speaking during the emergency debate in Parliament, Fonseka, who led the Sri Lankan military that vanquished the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in 2009, was quoted by the media as saying that the Easter attacks were a long planned one.

7:34 PM, 25 Apr

More Attacks Expected Over Weekend: US Embassy

The US embassy has tweeted asking people to stay ‘vigilant’ saying that more attacks are expected over the weekend.

6:35 PM, 25 Apr

Sri Lanka Defence Secretary Hemasri Fernando Resigns

Sri Lanka's Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando resigned from his post on Thursday, days after a series of devastating suicide attacks that tore through three churches and three luxury hotels on Easter Sunday, killing nearly 360 people, reported news agency PTI

President Maithripala Sirisena had asked Defence Secretary Fernando and Inspector General of Police Pujith Jayasundara to quit after their failure to prevent the blasts despite having prior intelligence.

Fernando handed over his resignation letter Thursday on a request made by President Sirisena, according to Colombo Gazette.

Nine suicide bombers, believed to be members of local Islamist extremist group called National Thowheed Jamath (NTJ), carried out the devastating blasts that killed 359 people and wounded more than 500 others.

4:38 PM, 25 Apr

Sri Lanka Suspends Visas on Arrival

Sri Lanka on Thursday suspended its plans to grant visas on arrival to citizens of 39 countries after the devastating Easter suicide bombings that killed nearly 360 people, reported news agency PTI.

"Although arrangements were in place to issue visas on arrival for citizens of 39 countries, we have now decided to hold it for the time being in consideration of the current security situation," Tourism Minister John Amaratunga said in a statement.

"Investigations have revealed foreign links to the attacks and we don't want this facility to be abused," Amaratunga added.

The visas on arrival pilot programme was part of a larger initiative to increase tourist arrivals to the country during the six month off-season period from May to October

3:45 PM, 25 Apr

Police Arrests Three People, Seize Weapons

The Sri Lankan police has arrested three people in a raid in Colombo. Grenades and other weapons have been seized, news agency Reuters reported quoting police spokesperson.

3:28 PM, 25 Apr

Israel Tells Citizens to Leave Sri Lanka

Israel on Thursday urged its citizens travelling in Sri Lanka to leave the country, citing an "elevated concrete threat" following deadly Easter bombings there, reported news agency PTI.

The recommendation from Israel's counter-terrorism bureau said the travel warning was issued after consultations with security and foreign ministry officials.

1:47 PM, 25 Apr

11 Indians Die in Lanka Blasts: Lankan Foreign Ministry

The number of Indians killed in the massive Easter Sunday bombings rose to 11 on Thursday, as one more person succumbed to injuries, taking the total number of foreigners who died in the attack to 36, according to the Lankan Sri foreign ministry.

Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry, in a statement, said that as of Wednesday April 24, the number of foreign nationals who have been killed in the attack rose to 36.

11:23 AM, 25 Apr

All Sri Lanka Catholic Church Suspended

All Sri Lanka Catholic Church services suspended, said senior priest, reported AFP.

9:55 AM, 25 Apr

Blast Heard in Pugoda, Near Colombo

A blast was heard in Pugoda town, 40 km east of Sri Lanka capital Colombo, reported Reuters, on Thursday, 25 April.

1:49 AM, 25 Apr

Easter Sunday Tragedy Consequence of a "Weak" Lankan Government: Fonseka

The Easter Sunday tragedy is a consequence of a "weak" government, Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka told Parliament on Wednesday, 24 April, as he faulted President Maithripala Sirisena, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, defence officials for the country's worst terror attacks.

Speaking during the emergency debate in the House, the former army chief said people will not be able to get on with their day to day lives if the government goes on in the way it is doing things today.

He then faulted President Sirisena, Prime Minister Wickremesinghe and defence officials for the attacks last Sunday that has killed 359 people and injured nearly 500 others.

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"The whole government including the Cabinet becomes weak if the President is weak," the 68-year-old Field Marshal said.

"The intelligence reports which are sent to defence ministry clearly goes to President Sirisena as he is the Minister of Defence," he said referring to the statement made by Sirisena who said he was also not aware of the intelligence reports beforehand.

"The President should have returned to the country from Singapore earlier than 12 midnight as there were Sri Lankan Airlines flights operating from Singapore to Colombo several times. Mr. Sirisena only sent a message of condolence," he was quoted as saying by Daily Mirror.

"I have no personal issue with the President," he said and alleged that the law and order ministers who were appointed earlier were not competent.

Faulting Prime Minister Wickremesinghe, he said one cannot get away saying he was not informed.

"The Prime Minister had said he was not informed of the warning made by the foreign intelligence units. He should have either informed Parliament if he was not called for the Security Council meeting for the last six months.

"I also must mention that it took 48 hours for the Prime Minister's office to invite me for a meeting, I should have been summoned to Temple Trees immediately after the Sunday's bomb attacks as it is me who has more knowledge on defence", he said while highlighting that government should have made a better use of him.

Under Fonseka's command the Sri Lankan Army ended the 26- year Sri Lankan civil war in 2009, defeating the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) led by Velupillai Prabakaran.

Also he said State Minister of Defence Ruwan Wijewardene should have resigned from his post if he was not called for the Security Council meeting for six months.

Fonseka also faulted the Opposition as well.

(Source: PTI)

1:49 AM, 25 Apr

Sri Lankan Woman Loses Most of Her Family in Easter Bombings

On Sunday, 21 April, 43-year-old Anusha Kumari was left childless and a widow when suicide bombers launched a coordinated attack on churches and luxury hotels in Sri Lanka.

Kumari lost her daughter, son, husband, sister-in-law and two nieces.

They were buried three days later on some vacant land near the stricken church that has quickly become a cemetery for some of the bombing victims.

1:35 AM, 25 Apr

VK Singh Visits Lankan HC, Expresses Condolences on Loss of Lives in Terror Attacks

Minister of State for External Affairs V K Singh on Wednesday, 24 April, visited the Sri Lankan High Commission in New Delhi and expressed deepest condolences on the tragic loss of lives and injury to the victims of the horrific terrorist attacks in the island nation.

"Sharing the grief. MoS @Gen_VKSingh visited the Sri Lankan High Commission in New Delhi today expressing deepest condolences on the tragic loss of lives & injury to the victims of the horrific terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka on 21 April," Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar tweeted.