The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) Saturday issued a travel advisory asking Indian nationals not to undertake non-essential travel to Sri Lanka in the aftermath of the Easter Sunday bombings, which left over 250 people dead in the island nation. At least 10 Indians were among those killed in the country’s deadliest terrorist attack ever.
“In view of the prevailing security situation in Sri Lanka in the aftermath of terror attacks on 21 April 2019, Indian nationals intending to travel to Sri Lanka are advised not to undertake non-essential travel,” the MEA said in its advisory.
It also stated that “in case of those undertaking essential/emergency travels, they can contact the High Commission of India in Colombo or the Assistant High Commission in Kandy/Consulates in Hambantota and Jaffna in case of requirement of any assistance.”
The helpline numbers of the Indian High Commission are available on the Mission’s website, it said.
Following the deadly attacks on April 21, that ripped across three churches and three luxury hotels frequented by tourists, the Sri Lankan government has beefed up security across the country. A nation-wide emergency including night-time curfew was imposed. The curfew for areas other than Kalmunai, Chavalakade and Sammanthurai was lifted at 4 am on Saturday. However, it will remain imposed in these three Muslim-majority areas until further notice, said the police. Meanwhile, Sri Lanka President has banned National Thawheed Jammath (NTJ) and another group suspected to have carried out the easter bombings.
On Friday night, a gun battle began near Sainthamaruthu in Ampara after police tipped off soldiers to a suspected safe house, where militants set off three explosions triggering fire, the military said. Following this, at least 15 bodies, including six children, were recovered from the site after the shootout that took place as the security forces continued their hunt for members of NTJ, the local terror outfit behind the suicide bomb blasts. Four suspected Islamic State gunmen were killed and three others were injured in the gunfight, said a police spokesperson. At least 76 people have been arrested by the police in connection with the attack so far.
The US advised citizens to reconsider travelling to Sri Lanka
Similarly, the United States has advised its citizens to reconsider their travel plans to Sri Lanka. The State Department raised the travel risk to Level 3 in an advisory issued Friday. It also authorised the voluntary departure of non-emergency US government employees and family members in the island nation.
Sri Lanka suspended visas on arrival programme
Last Thursday, Sri Lanka suspended its plans to grant visas on arrival to citizens of 39 countries following the suicide bomb attacks. “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 had said in a statement. “Investigations have revealed foreign links to the attacks and we don’t want this facility to be abused,” he added. The visa on arrival pilot programme was part of an initiative to boost tourist arrivals to the country during the six-month off-season period from May to October. Sri Lanka has also postponed a tour of Pakistan’s under-19 team following the attacks, a cricket board (SLC) source told Reuters on Saturday.
Top leadership of Sri Lankan government admitted failure
After the blasts, Sri Lanka President Maithripala Sirisena and the top leadership of the Sri Lankan government admitted the failure of the government and intelligence systems in preventing the Easter Sunday blasts.
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.
— Ranil Wickremesinghe (@RW_UNP) April 26, 2019
Sri Lanka Prime Minsiter Ranil Wickremesinghe has also apologised to the country’s citizens for failing to protect the victims of the blasts.