At least four Indian nationals are reported to be among the victims of bomb blasts in churches and hotels across Sri Lanka on Sunday.
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj identified three of them as Lakshmi, Narayan Chandrashekhar and Ramesh. Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said a woman from Kasargod district, P S Raseena, was also among those killed. However, there was no official confirmation from the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) on the identity of the fourth victim.
India condemned the “serial terrorist attacks” in the “strongest terms”. Prime Minister Narendra Modi called up Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena and Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and offered help. During the telephone conversation, Modi said the “cold-blooded and pre-planned barbaric acts” were another grim reminder of the most serious challenge posed to the entire humanity by terrorism in our region and the entire world, a statement by MEA said.
According to an AFP report, Sri Lanka’s police chief had issued a nationwide alert 10 days ago that suicide bombers planned to hit “prominent churches” and the “Indian High Commission (in Colombo)”. Sources in Delhi were tight-lipped about the threat, but said security has been beefed up around the Indian High Commission after a high-level review.
The Cinnamon Grand Hotel, one of the hotels targeted on Sunday, is barely 500 metres away from the Indian High Commission in Colombo.
Giving details of the Indian victims, Sushma Swaraj tweeted: “Indian High Commission in Colombo has conveyed that National Hospital has informed them about the death of three Indian nationals. Their names are Lokashini, Narayan Chandrashekhar and Ramesh. We are ascertaining further details.” She later corrected the first name to Lakshmi.
Vijayan posted on his official Facebook page that “steps are being taken” to facilitate the return of the body of Raseena, who hails from Mogral Puthur in Kasargod. Sources in Raseena’s family said she was killed in the blast at the Shangri-La hotel.
“She had gone to Sri Lanka with her husband Khadar Kukkadi, a native of Mangalore, 10 days ago. The couple is settled in Dubai and had gone to Colombo to meet Raseena’s brother, Basheer, who is a businessman there. Khadar flew back to Dubai this morning and Raseena was at the restaurant when the blast took place. She was to return to her brother’s residence. They have two children, Fara and Khanfar, both in the US,” sources said.
According to sources, Raseena’s body was identified by her brother. Vijayan said Kerala was planning to send a medical team to Lanka for assistance. “Necessary steps would be taken to depute the medical team to Lanka in consultation with the External Affairs Ministry,” he said.
Meanwhile, in Delhi, articulating the government’s position, the MEA said: “We strongly condemn the serial blasts at multiple locations in Sri Lanka today morning in which many people have been killed and injured”.
Using the standard language template for condemning terrorism, the MEA said: “India has always opposed and rejected terrorism in all its /forms and manifestations, and has urged concerted action by the international community against terrorism, including cross-border terrorism. There can be no justification whatsoever for any act of terror… We call for perpetrators of such ghastly and heinous act and those who provide them support to be brought to justice expeditiously.”
Condemning the blasts, Modi tweeted: “Strongly condemn the horrific blasts in Sri Lanka. There is no place for such barbarism in our region… My thoughts are with the bereaved families and prayers with the injured.”
In his conversation with Sirisena and Wickremesinghe, Modi renewed the offer of all possible help to Sri Lanka for ensuring its security against the challenges such as those posed by terrorism. “He also wished the injured a speedy recovery and offered all required assistance for their treatment,” said the statement.
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According to the AFP report, Sri Lanka’s police chief Pujuth Jayasundara sent an intelligence warning to top officers on April 11. “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,” said the alert.
The NTJ is a radical Muslim group in Sri Lanka that came to notice last year when it was linked to vandalism of Buddhist statues.