An Indian and two Chinese are among 215 people killed in the attack which shattering a decade of peace in the island nation since the end of the brutal civil war with the LTTE.
The UN leadership strongly condemned the string of attacks on churches and hotels in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday that killed over 200 people, with chief of the world body Antonio Guterres saying he was “outraged” by the devastating blasts. Eight blasts, including suicide attacks, targeted St Anthony’s Church in Colombo, St Sebastian’s Church in the western coastal town of Negombo and Zion Church in the eastern town of Batticaloa around 8.45 am (local time) as the Easter Sunday mass were in progress.
Explosions were reported from three five-star hotels – the Shangri-La, the Cinnamon Grand and the Kingsbury in Colombo. An Indian and two Chinese are among 215 people killed in the attack which shattering a decade of peace in the island nation since the end of the brutal civil war with the LTTE.
In a statement issued by his spokesman Stephane Dujarric, UN Secretary-General Guterres said he was “outraged by the terrorist attacks” on churches and hotels in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday, which is a “sacred day” for Christians around the world. The UN Chief “recalls the sanctity of all places of worship. He hopes the perpetrators will be swiftly brought to justice,” the statement added.
Expressing his deepest condolences to the families of the victims, the people and Government of Sri Lanka, Guterres commended the Sri Lankan leadership and unity of the people of the island nation in the wake of the attacks.
“The Secretary-General reiterates the support and solidarity of the United Nations with the people and the Government of Sri Lanka in this difficult moment for the nation,” the statement said. So far, no group has claimed responsibility for carrying out the the blasts, one of the deadliest attacks in the country’s history.
The police have reportedly arrested seven people in connection with the attacks. In a tweet, UN’s Resident Coordinator for the Indian Ocean island Hanaa Singer said the UN “strongly condemns the horrific attacks carried out against civilians and worshippers…Heartfelt condolences to the families, victims, Government and people”. She also urged Sri Lankans to stand united in the face of the carnage.
President of the UN General Assembly Maria Fernanda Espinosa also expressed her “deep sadness” over the blasts. She said her thoughts were with the people of Sri Lanka, “affected by yet another act of senseless violence”.
“We must unite in our common humanity to condemn these heinous acts and stop targetting innocent people, practising their faith in peace,” Espinosa said.
Sri Lanka’s bloody 30-year civil war waged between the government forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in the north ended in 2009 with the defeat of the separatist forces. The island is home to around 1.5 million Christians, the vast majority Roman Catholic. The Singhalese majority are Buddhist – comprising around 70 per cent of the population – besides sizeable Hindu and Muslim populations.
In response to Sunday’s attacks, a national curfew has been put in place, and social media networks such as Facebook and WhatsApp have been blocked.
According to a UN news article, eye witness reports from St Sebastian’s church in Negombo describe a scene of carnage, with dozens killed. There were also heavy casualties at St Anthony’s in the Kochckicade district of Colombo, where the first blast happened.
Pope Francis, in his Easter Address outside St Peter’s in Rome, expressed his “affectionate closeness” for the Christian community in Sri Lanka which had been struck while gathering for one of its biggest celebrations of the year, and said his thoughts were with “all the victims of such cruel violence”.