On Easter Sunday a group of nine men bombed churches and hotels, killing 253 and injuring some 500 people in Sri Lanka. Most of the victims were Sri Lankans but at least 38 foreigners are among the dead including British, Danish, Indian and US citizens. The attacks are Sri Lanka’s deadliest act of violence since the end of the 26-year civil war in 2009.
At around 9 am, six blasts took place within a short period of time around the country. Three were at churches – in the Kochchikade district of the capital, Colombo; toward the north in Negombo and in Batticaloa in the East. The other three were at the Shangri-La, Cinnamon Grand and Kingsbury hotels in Colombo. Two more explosions happened later at Dehiwala in southern Colombo and another one in Dematagoda during a police raid. On Monday, another blast happened near a church in the capital as police were trying to defuse it in a vehicle of the attackers.
All but one of the men can be seen with their faces covered, with some holding knives. Two of the bombers were the sons of spice trader Mohammad Yusuf Ibrahim from Colombo. Their father has been arrested and is now in custody. His daughter-in-law detonated explosives during a police raid at the family’s villa on Sunday to avoid arrest. Several children and police officers were reportedly killed during that blast. One of the attackers, Abdul Latif Jamil Mohammed visited south-east England in 2006 to study. The suspected ringleader is Zahran Hashim, who founded but was later expelled, the National Thowheed Jamath. He blew himself up at a hotel in Colombo. The Islamic State (IS) has claimed responsibility for the bombings, also releasing a video where Hashim, who was one of the suicide bombers, swore allegiance to IS. IS also said ‘members of the US-led coalition and Christians in Sri Lanka’ had been targeted.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has advised against all but essential travel to Sri Lanka due to the current evolving security situation following the attacks.