More than 260 people were killed when three churches – two Catholic and one Protestant – came under simultaneous suicide bomb attacks during Easter celebrations on April 21, 2019. Three tourist hotels were also targeted, killing some 42 foreign nationals.
Public memorials organized to mark the anniversary were canceled amid a rise in COVID-19 patients. Instead, church pastors were asked to ring bells and two-minutes of silence be observed at 8:45 a.m., the time of the bomb attacks.
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Investigators concluded that two Muslim groups inspired by the Islamic State group were responsible for the attacks. The government of then-President Maithripala Sirisena was blamed for ignoring near specific intelligence received before the attacks.
“We are grateful to those friendly nations that generously shared the intelligence information prior to the attack on several occasions, which our political leaders unfortunately did not take seriously,” said Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, the Archbishop of Colombo, Sri Lanka’s capital.
“We honor specially all those who lost their lives, those who were seriously injured and all those who lost loved ones, families that have been broken up …” the archbishop said.
The UN office in Sri Lanka stressed the need to relentlessly fight terrorism.
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“Terrorism should not be associated with any religion, ethnicity or race,” it said in a statement. “The purpose of terrorism is to inoculate societies with the virus of fear. Fear of the other, fear of differences, fear of dissenting opinions or different accents or clothing.”
The police chief and the secretary to the defense ministry at the time of the attacks are facing legal action over alleged negligence.
More than 100 suspects with alleged links to the masterminds of the attacks have been detained by police.
Sri Lankan police earlier this month arrested the brother of a former Cabinet minister and a lawyer for alleged links to the suicide bombers.
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Sri Lanka’s government on Monday partially lifted a monthlong curfew, with the top health official declaring that the coronavirus is “under control.” The Indian Ocean island nation had been under a 24-hour curfew since March 20. The curfew will remain in effect from 8 p.m. until 5 a.m. until further notice. Sri Lanka has 304 confirmed cases of the virus, including seven deaths.