Sri Lanka bomb blasts HIGHLIGHTS: Two more Indians confirmed dead; emergency to be declared from midnight

Sri Lanka bomb blasts HIGHLIGHTS: Two more Indians confirmed dead; emergency to be declared from midnight

Sri Lanka bomb blasts today, Sri Lanka Terror Attack HIGHLIGHTS: The National Tawheed Jamath outfit is suspected to be behind the deadly serial bomb blasts that ripped through churches and hotels and claimed nearly 300 lives on Easter, Sri Lankan minister Rajitha Senaratne said on Monday.

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Sri Lankan military stand guard near the explosion site at a church in Batticaloa, Sri Lanka April 21, 2019. REUTERS/Stringer NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES

Sri Lanka Bomb Blasts HIGHLIGHTS: The Indian Coast Guard on Monday beefed up surveillance and deployed more ships and aircraft for patrolling following a series of devastating blasts in Sri Lanka on Sunday. A senior Coast Guard official told PTI that the move has been taken to ensure no element that poses a security threat to the country sneaks through the sea.

Another explosion went off on Monday in a van near a church in Colombo when a squad of Special Task Force (STF) and air force were trying to diffuse the bomb, Reuters reported. The Sri Lanka Police also found 87 bomb detonators at Colombo main bus station, a day after the island nation was shaken by serial blasts killing 290 people and wounding 500 others. The National Tawheed Jamath outfit is suspected to be behind the deadly serial bomb blasts that ripped through churches and hotels and claimed nearly 300 lives on Easter, Sri Lankan minister Rajitha Senaratne said on Monday. The seven suicide bombers who had carried out the attacks were Sri Lankan nationals, he added.

Twenty-four persons were arrested in connection with the eight bombs blasts that left nearly 500 people injured. Late on Sunday, authorities defused an improvised pipe bomb on a road leading to the main terminal of the Colombo airport. Social media services continued to remain blocked in the country to curtail the spread of false information and ease tensions until the probe into the blasts is concluded.

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Nearly 300 people have been killed in the serial explosions that ripped through Sri Lankan churches and hotels on Sunday. Here are the HIGHLIGHTS.

Pompeo vows fight 'Islamic radical terrorism' after Sri Lanka blasts

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday vowed that the US will continue fighting "radical Islamic terror" and the "evil human beings" perpetrating it as he condemned Sri Lanka's worst terror attacks that claimed 290 lives.

Pompeo has said America will continue fighting "radical Islamic terror", which he said remained a threat following the attacks in Sri Lanka.

"Sadly, this evil exists in the world," he told reporters on Monday. "This is America's fight, too."

Pompeo said that he had spoken to Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe over the telephone.


Trump calls Sri Lanka PM, pledges support

US president Donald Trump calls Sri Lankan Prime Minister and pledged the US' support in bringing the perpetrators of attacks to justice.

Security tightened in southern states after terror attack in Sri Lanka

Security in southern states, particularly in churches and other religious places, has been strengthened following the terrorists attack in Sri Lanka which has left 290 people dead, including eight Indians, and over 500 injured, officials said Monday.

Security has also been stepped up in sensitive locations in major cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Bengaluru, and Goa, which is a major tourist destination, as a precautionary measure.


Farooq Abdullah condemns Sri Lanka attacks

National Conference president Farooq Abdullah Monday condemned the suicide blasts in Sri Lanka that left 290 people dead.

"My thoughts are with the injured, I pray for their fast recovery. I pray that the world does not have to see such outrageous attacks in the future that claim many precious lives," the former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir said.

Buddhist monks visit bombed church in Sri Lanka; say 'we don't have any anger' against other religions

A small group of monks in saffron robes visited the bombed St Anthony's Church here on Monday and said they don't have any anger or ill will towards anyone of any other religion in the Buddhist-majority nation.

The Buddhist monks visited the historic Catholic church located at Kochchikade, a day after a suicide bomber reportedly triggered a huge blast, killing many worshippers who had gathered for the Easter Sunday morning mass.

Venerable Prof Pitigala Vijitha Thero was outside St Anthony's Shrine said he was "extremely saddened and grieved" by the incident.


Sri Lanka announces compensation for bomb blast victims

The Sri Lankan government on Monday announced that it will compensate the victims of the bomb blasts that hit churches and luxury hotels in the country on Easter, PTI quoted local media as saying.

Government spokesperson Rajitha Senaratne said that the each victim in the attacks will be paid 1 million Sri Lankan rupees (USD 5,722), while about 100,000 Sri Lankan rupees (USD 572) would be given for the costs of the funeral processions, The Sunday Times reported.

He said that the injured in the attacks would be paid between 100,000 Sri Lankan rupees (USD 570)- 300,000 Sri Lankan rupees (USD 1717).

The spokesperson also stressed that all the damaged churches will be completely repaired by the government.

Indian Coast Guard beefs up surveillance after Lanka blasts

The Indian Coast Guard has beefed up surveillance and deployed more ships and aircraft for patrolling following a series of devastating blasts in Sri Lanka on Sunday.

This has been done to ensure that no element that could pose as a security threat sneaks into the country through sea, a senior Coast Guard official said.

"We have deployed all our ships from Coast Guard stations at Tuticorin, Mandapam and Karaikal for surveillance," the official said.


Two more Indians confirmed dead

Two more Indians have been confirmed dead in the Sri Lanka blasts, the Indian Embassy in Sri Lanka said.

Pope Francis condemns Sri Lanka blasts

Pope Francis on Monday deplored the attacks on churches and hotels in Sri Lanka that killed nearly 300 people and called for universal condemnation of what he said were "terrorist acts, inhuman acts" that could never be justified. It was the second day in a row that the Pope condemned the attacks.

Just In: Explosion in a van near Colombo church

An explosion has occurred in a van near a Colombo church while Sri Lanka bomb squad officials were trying to defuse it, witnesses told Reuters.

Just In: Sri Lanka police finds 87 bomb detonators at Colombo bus stand

Sri Lanka police have found 87 bomb detonators at Colombo' main bus stand, Reuters reported. Further information is awaited.

President appoints three-member committee to probe attacks

President Maithripala Sirisena today appointed a three-member committee headed by an apex court judge to probe the country’s deadliest attack and submit a report within two weeks, according to media reports. Supreme Court judge Vijith Malalgoda, former IGP N K Ilangakoon and Former Law and Order Ministry Secretary Padamasiri Jayamanne have been appointed as members of the committee, SundayTimes reported. The committee has been instructed to submit the probe report on the explosion within two weeks to the President, the report said. Read full story here.

President to seek foreign assistance to track international links

The President's statement also said that the government will seek foreign assistance to track the international links to the attacks.

Measures will not impinge on freedom of expression: Govt

"The government has decided to gazette the clauses related to prevention of terrorism to emergency regulation and gazette it by midnight," the president's media unit said in a statement. It added the measure would be confined to dealing with terrorism and would not impinge on the freedom of expression.

President to declare nationwide emergency from Monday midnight

According to Reuters, the President's Office announced to declare a nationwide emergency from midnight on Monday.

Sri Lanka attacks carried out with help of international network: Minister

Senaratne also said the ghastly bomb blasts across Sri Lanka on Sunday were carried out with the help of an international network. "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."

Suicide bombers were Sri Lankans: Minister

All suicide bombers are believed to be Sri Lankan nationals, the minister added.

Role of National Tawheed Jamath suspected in Sri Lanka blasts

Sri Lankan minister Rajitha Senaratne said the National Tawheed Jamath outfit is suspected to be behind the devastating Easter blasts, PTI reported.

Fifth body yet to be identified, says Kumaraswamy

US issues travel advisories to citizens travelling to Sri Lanka

The US has issued travel advisories to their citizens seeking to visit Sri Lanka, citing threats of terrorism. According to advisories, travellers should exercise a high degree of caution in Sri Lanka due to the current security situation. The US Embassy said terrorists may attack with little or no warning targeting tourist locations, transportation hubs, markets/shopping malls, local government facilities, hotels, clubs, restaurants, places of worship, parks, major sporting and cultural events, educational institutions, airports and other public areas. The US citizens travelling to or residing in Sri Lanka were advised to enrol in the Department of State's Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) in order to receive the latest security updates, the Sunday Times reported.

Probe underway, says senior official

According to a senior official at the government's forensic division, two of the suicide bombers blew themselves up at the luxury Shangri-La Hotel on Colombo's seafront. The others targeted three churches and two other hotels. A fourth hotel and a house in a suburb of the capital Colombo were also targeted, but it was not immediately known how the attacks were carried out. "Still the investigations are going on," Ariyananda Welianga said.

Karnataka CM expresses condolences to victims' family

Three JD(S) workers missing in Colombo: Kumaraswamy

Karnataka CM says 4 JD(S) workers among 5 Indians killed in Sri Lanka blasts

Curfew in Sri Lanka from 8 pm to 4 am

According to Reuters, the government information department said the curfew will be reinstated from 8 pm tonight and will continue till 4 am on Tuesday.

Interpol offers Sri Lanka assistance to investigate Easter Sunday blasts

The Interpol on Monday offered full support to the Sri Lankan authorities in investigating the country's deadliest terror attack that killed 290 people in a series of eight blasts yesterday. Taking to Twitter, Interpol Secretary General Jurgen Stock said, "Interpol strongly condemns the horrific attacks and has offered its full support to the investigation being carried out by national authorities." "Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of the victims," he added.

Sri Lankan presidential elections, and the economy

The Sri Lankan presidential elections are scheduled for the end of the year, and terrorism could feature once again as a theme in the polls. In a series of political developments at the end of last year, veteran leader Mahinda Rajapaksa was suddenly appointed prime minister by President Maithripala Sirisena, shortly before Wickremesinghe—the deposed prime minister—was reinstated in December after a Supreme Court decision. The political crisis had an impact on the country’s economy, which grew 3 per cent in 2018 — the lowest since 2001. At the end of 2018, Sri Lanka had a debt of $50 billion to foreign lenders — 77 per cent of its GDP — and had to pay back over $4 billion in foreign loans. The Sri Lankan rupee dropped nearly 17 per cent that year, its lowest ever against the US Dollar, before recovering this year. Click here to read more.

What steps is Sri Lanka taking after the bomb blasts?

The Sri Lankan government convened a national security meeting this morning to take stock of the situation. Some 200 troops have been deployed in Colombo, where most of the bombs were detonated. According to Bloomberg, the Prime Minister has sought international help to “check foreign links of these groups”. Wickremesinghe said Sunday that he feared the blasts could trigger instability in the country and vowed to “vest all necessary powers with the defense forces” to act against the culprits. Click here to read more.

What is the motive for the Sri Lanka bomb blasts?

The reason for targeting churches on Easter Sunday and hotels frequented by tourists remains unknown. Of Sri Lanka’s 22 million population, Christians form a little over 7 per cent. Buddhists form 70 per cent of the population, Hindus 12.6 per cent and Muslims just under 10 per cent. The police said they have arrested at least 13 people in connection with the case, but the identities of these people remain unknown. Lakthilaka told The Indian Express, “Those who were arrested cannot be linked directly to the blast as they were taken in custody out of suspicion, for being in the vicinity of an apartment where the terrorists were camping…” Click here to read more.

Who is behind the Sri Lanka attacks? 

No individual or group has come forward to claim responsibility for the attacks. A warning issued by the Sri Lankan police chief on April 11, the National Towheeth Jamaath, which preaches a puritanical form of Islam, would target the Indian High Commission and churches. The group has had an influence on Sri Lankans leaving to join the Islamic State. A top Sri Lankan official, meanwhile, told The Indian Express that the “involvement of international elements is clear”. Shiral Lakthilaka, the advisor and coordinating secretary at the Presidential Secretariat, said, “Terrorists have penetrated our security system… We suspect the role of international elements behind this. We cannot pinpoint anyone, a political or religious angle, to this tragedy right now… The situation is under control and the army is on standby to assist and take over any crisis situation. Click here to read more.

‘The whole market is shut and Army has also come’

Chandigarh Lawn Tennis Academy (CLTA) head coach 46-year-old Romen Singh recounted the entire event: “We had arrived in Colombo on Saturday to play in the UTF Junior Grade 5 Tournament and had our practice session in the evening. After we finished our training session this morning at the Sri Lanka Tennis Association Stadium, we walked to our hotel. We must have missed hearing the sounds of the blasts due to our training and as we walked towards our hotel, we saw several ambulances and police vehicles rushing that way. Later when we reached the hotel, we got to know about the blasts at the two hotels nearby.  We have been asked to stay in our hotel. Yes, incidents like these make us scared and I have been getting many phone calls from India, asking about our well-being,” Singh told Chandigarh Newsline from Columbo. Read the entire account here.

Just in: 'Explosions carried out by 7 suicide bombers'

2 JD(S) workers among 7 Indians killed in attacks, says Karnataka CM

Karnataka CM expresses concerns over missing JD(S) workers in Colombo

Terrorists may attack with little or no warning in Sri Lanka: US

In its warning, the US said, "Terrorists may attack with little or no warning." It added that possible targets included tourist locations, transportation hubs, shopping malls, hotels, places of worship, airports and other public areas.

Possible intel failures to be examined in Sri Lanka blasts

On Monday, police in Sri Lanka said the investigation into the Easter Sunday bombings will examine reports that the intelligence community failed to detect or warn of possible suicide attacks before the violence. Two government ministers have alluded to intelligence failures. Telecommunications Minister Harin Fernando tweeted, "Some intelligence officers were aware of this incidence. Therefore there was a delay in action. Serious action needs to be taken as to why this warning was ignored." He added that his father had heard of the possibility of an attack as well and had warned him not to enter popular churches.

Terrorists continue to plot attacks in Sri Lanka: US

According to Reuters, the US State Department said that "terrorists continue plotting possible attacks in Sri Lanka"

Number of Indians killed rises to six

The number of Indians killed in the blasts has increased to six, the Indian embassy in Sri Lanka said.

24 people arrested in connection with multiple blasts in Sri Lanka

Police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera today said the number of arrests on the blasts have now gone up to 24. The government said they will not disclose the details of the suspects involved in the attacks to prevent them from getting publicity.

Don't give extremists a voice: Minister to reporters

Asked for details on the suspects, State Minister of defense Ruwan Wijewardene said, "Don't give extremists a voice. Don't help to make them martyrs."

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<strong>Sri Lanka Blasts HIGHLIGHTS:</strong> Sri Lankan military stand guard inside a church after an explosion in Negombo on Sunday. (Reuters)

Here is some context to help you understand the latest events in the small island nation. Sri Lanka gained independence from British rule in 1948 as the dominion of Ceylon, and became the Republic of Sri Lanka in 1972. But much of its history has been marred by sectarian tensions. And more recently, it has been caught up in much larger regional rivalries between China and India.

Sri Lanka population

Roughly 70 per cent of the 200 million people that live in the country are Buddhists. Smaller ethnic and religious groups include Hindus, at over 12%, Muslims at under 10%, and Catholics at about 6%. Despite their clear majority, Sinhalese Buddhist nationalists have been stoking fears that the minority groups, particularly the Muslims, are increasing in numbers and influence.

(With inputs from NYT)