Hundreds Dead in Church Bombing

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Hundreds Dead in Church Bombing

Safa Hameed

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It is safe to say that no one should ever fear going to a place of worship. Yet, these days, it seems as if for some people this is a luxury, not a given. This can be seen in recent attacks, such as the Christchurch mosque shooting and now in several church attacks in Sri Lanka. On Easter Sunday, a total of eight attacks rang out in Sri Lanka in three different Christian communities that have led to a total of 320 deaths.

The attacks began at 8:45 am at three churches in Sri Lanka’s most prominent Christian communities. These churches include St. Anthony’s Shrine, Colombo, St. Sebastian’s Church, Negombo, and Zion Church in Batticaloa. The rest of the bombings all took place in Colombo. They include three high-end hotels: the Cinnamon Grand, the Shangri-La Hotel, and the Kingsbury Hotel. According to one witness, “The bomb blasted inside Table One restaurant on the 3rd floor, the main restaurant of the Shangri-La Hotel, Colombo, where people were apparently having their Easter breakfast. Felt the blast all the way up to the 17th floor where we were sleeping. Few minutes later, we were asked to evacuate the hotel. While running down the stairs, saw a lot of blood on the floor but we were still clueless as to what really happened.” Two other bombs were detonated at the Dehiwala Zoo and a house in the suburbs of Colombo.

While there is still no clear answer as to who committed these crimes, there are two suspects. One is ISIS, who took claim for the attack; however, there is no evidence suggesting they are the perpetrators. On the other hand, the Sri Lankan government has claimed that National Thowheeth Jama’ath, a small Islamist terrorist organization, is responsible. So far, there are currently twenty-four suspects that have been apprehended, as well as a video that potentially shows the suicide bombers entering one of the churches. It is believed that the motive behind these massacres is a revenge plot for what happened at the Christchurch mosque shooting in New Zealand.

What has angered people the most is that police knew that something like this could have happened. The deputy inspector general of police sent out a letter to other security agencies just a week before the actual attack, saying that they had received information that the terrorist group National Thowheeth Jama’ath was planning to bomb some very important churches. The police, unfortunately, did next to nothing, like heighting security, except for near the international airport at Colombo. If these threats had been investigated and churches protected, then these attacks could have been prevented, if not more lives saved.

In the meantime, in order to curb the “false news reports [that are] spreading through social media,” the government has blocked social media sites, like Whatsapp and Facebook. They have also imposed a nationwide curfew and have begun to patrol the streets of Colombo with tanks and troops armed with rifles. The Prime Minister, who was not in the country at the time of the attack, replied saying,”I strongly condemn the cowardly attacks on our people today. I call upon all Sri Lankans during this tragic time to remain united and strong. Please avoid propagating unverified reports and speculation.”

Of the 320 dead and 500 injured, forty of them were foreigners, with nationalities ranging from Chinese to Danish. Many leaders, such as those of the countries of the deceased, have reached out to show support for both Sri Lanka, as well as the families of those affected by the bombings. As several American nationals were among those killed, President Trump released a statement reassuring that “the U.S. is ready to help,” as well as offering condolences for those affected by the bombings. U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, went on to state that “these vile attacks are a stark reminder of why the United States remains resolved in our fight to defeat terrorism.”