Sri Lanka Minister: Blasts ‘In Retaliation’ For NZ Mosque Attacks

Sri Lanka’s minister of defense said Tuesday that initial investigation shows that the string of bloody blasts that targeted churches and hotels in the country were in retaliation for last month’s Christchurch mosque shootings in New Zealand.

 

“The preliminary investigations showed that what happened in Sri Lanka (on Sunday) was in retaliation for the attack against Muslims in Christchurch,” state minister of defense Ruwan Wijewardene told parliament.

 

The death toll from the explosions across Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday has risen to 321. Over 500 people were wounded in the attacks, 375 of whom are still in hospital, said Wijewardene.

 

Two domestic Islamist organizations, including the National Thowheeth Jama’ath group, are responsible for the blasts, according to the minister.

 

What happened?

 

A series of eight blasts hit different cities in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday, mainly targeting churches and hotels across the country.

 

Three churches in Colombo, Negombo and Batticaloa were struck by blasts during Easter services.

 

Three luxury hotels in the capital city – Shangri-La Colombo, Kingsbury Hotel and Cinnamon Grand Colombo – were also hit.

 

Shortly after, an explosion ripped through at a hotel in Dehiwela near the capital city of Colombo and a blast struck a house in the suburb of Orugodawatta, north of Colombo.

 

Following the blasts, a “homemade” pipe bomb was found close to Colombo’s main airport and was successfully defused by the Sri Lankan air force, police said.

 

 

Who are the victims?

 

The serial blasts have left at least 310 people killed and about 500 others wounded.

 

Nationals from China, the U.S., Denmark, Japan, Pakistan, Morocco, India, and Bangladesh are among the victims, local media reported on Sunday citing Sri Lanka’s national hospital spokesperson.

 

Chinese embassy confirmed that one Chinese national was killed and five others were injured in the deadly blasts.

 

Who is behind the attacks?

 

A local group named the “National Thowheed Jamaat” was behind the explosions, Sri Lanka’s Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne said at a media briefing on Monday.

 

Media reported that a warning was issued by police chief on April 11, saying the group was reportedly planning attacks on churches.

 

However, no group has officially claimed responsibility for the attacks yet.

 

A total of 24 people thought to have connections with the fatal blasts have been arrested by local police, officials said Monday.

 

A government investigator said the attacks on three luxury hotels and three churches were carried out by suicide bombers.

 

Two of the bombers detonated themselves in Colombo’s Shangri-La Hotel, Reuters reported citing senior forensic official Ariyananda Welianga.

 

It is still unclear how the attacks at the fourth hotel and a house in Colombo were carried out, Welianga said.

 

 

Sri Lankan cabinet spokesman said the attacks were carried out with the help of an international network.

 

“There was an international network without which these attacks could not have succeeded,” spokesman Rajitha Senaratne said.

 

How did the government react?

 

Sri Lanka’s defense ministry Sunday ordered a nationwide curfew from 6:00 p.m. local time (1230GMT) to 6:00 a.m. local time (0030GMT) and lifted it on Monday.

 

The curfew was re-instated in Colombo from 8 p.m. (1430 GMT) on Monday to 4 a.m (2230 GMT) on Tuesday.

 

Major social media and messaging services, including Facebook and WhatsApp, have been blocked in the country to prevent misinformation.

 

“I strongly condemn the cowardly attacks on our people today,” Ranil Wickremesinghe, prime minister of Sri Lanka, said Sunday on Twitter, “the government is taking immediate steps to contain the situation.”

 

Source: CGTN