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Sri Lanka: Easter Bombings Answer Attacks in New Zealand

People react during a mass burial of victims, two days after a string of suicide bomb attacks on Easter Sunday, at a cemetery near St. Sebastian Church in Negombo, Sri Lanka, April 23, 2019. (REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha)
Sri Lanka Minister Says Easter Bombings Answer Attacks in New Zealand
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The Islamic State group claimed responsibility today for the Easter attacks in Sri Lanka. A top Sri Lankan official also said investigators believed the bombings answered attacks on two mosques in New Zealand last month.

Neither source gave evidence for its claim. However, Reuters reported that the Islamic State named who it said were the seven bombers that carried out the attack.

Link to New Zealand?

The Easter attacks in Sri Lanka involved a series of organized suicide bombings, mostly on churches and hotels. More than 300 people were killed, and more than 500 injured.

The junior minister for defense spoke to Parliament about the attacks. He said the government had information that the bombings were carried out “by an Islamic fundamentalist group” in an answer to the New Zealand mosque attacks.

He did not say why officials believed the bombings were linked to the violence in New Zealand. That attack was carried out by a single white supremacist gunman.

The junior minister for defense also blamed “weakness” within Sri Lanka’s security operations for failing to prevent the nine bombings.

Reuters reported that India warned Sri Lankan intelligence that Islamic extremists were planning attacks. That information did not get to the prime minister’s office until after the attacks. The country has been in political turmoil for months.

Sri Lanka's Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe speaks to media at St. Anthony's Shrine in Colombo, Sri Lanka, April 21, 2019 in this image obtained from a video.
Sri Lanka's Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe speaks to media at St. Anthony's Shrine in Colombo, Sri Lanka, April 21, 2019 in this image obtained from a video.

Sri Lanka deals with the attacks

Security in the capital city, Colombo, increased Tuesday for a national day of mourning. The military used special powers to make arrests. Special-power arrests have not been made since the end of the civil war in 2009.

Sri Lankan officials announced a nationwide curfew would begin at 9 p.m. Tuesday. The government has also blocked most social media since the attacks.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe promised to use “all necessary powers” to arrest those responsible.

Officials said they knew where the group trained, but did not identify any of the seven suicide bombers. Their bodies were recovered. All seven bombers were Sri Lankans, but officials said they strongly suspected foreign links.

The reason for the attacks is unclear. Most of the 21 million people who live in Sri Lanka are Buddhist. But some are Hindu, Muslim or Christian.

Anti-Muslim ideas have been spread by Buddhist nationalists in the country recently. Sri Lanka, though, has no history of Islamic militancy. And its small Christian community has seen very few problems.

But for some this week, the violence destroyed whole families. On Easter Sunday, Berlington Joseph Gomez and his wife, Chandrika Arumugam, went to church at Colombo’s St. Anthony’s Shrine. They brought their three sons: 9-year-old Bevon, 6-year-old Clavon and baby Avon, just 11 months old.

Two days later, they were all being mourned by neighbors gathered at the modest home of Berlington’s father, Joseph Gomez.

“All family, all generation, is lost,” Gomez said.

I’m Susan Shand.

The Associated Press and the Reuters News Agency reported this story. Susan Shand adapted it for VOA Learning English. Kelly Jean Kelly was the editor.

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Words in This Story

mosque – n. a building that is used for Muslim religious services

fundamentalist n. someone who believes in a literal interpretation of the Bible

supremacist n. one who thinks he is superior to other races or religions

turmoil – n. a time of great problems

mourn – v. to be sad that someone has died

curfew – n. an order or law that requires people to be indoors after a certain time at night