Eight Blasts Rock Christian Churches During Easter Leave 207 Dead

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On Easter Sunday morning, a series of eight explosions at Christian churches in Sri Lanka left 207 dead and hundreds injured. The tenuous peace after full decade after the end of a long and lethal civil war appears to have ended.

Seven suspects were arrested following the blasts, although no religious or terrorist organization has claimed responsibility for the attacks. The government of Sri Lanka focused on shutting down social media in order to mitigate some of the effects of misinformation that add to the chaos.

‘Defense Minister Ruwan Wijewardena, who described the blasts as a terrorist attack by religious extremists, told reporters Sunday evening that seven suspects had been arrested, though no one immediately claimed responsibility for the blasts. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said he feared the violence could trigger instability in the country and its economy.’

Sri Lanka was embroiled in civil war when the Tamil Tigers fought for independence from the ethnic Sinhala Buddhist majority. During that time, church bombings were a common tactic of that civil war, and government officials in the country fear a resurgence.

‘The nearly simultaneous first six blasts Sunday morning toppled ceilings and blew out windows at a famous Catholic church in Colombo, the capital, and at three luxury hotels in the city. The other two occurred at St. Sebastian Catholic church in Negombo, a majority Catholic town north of Colombo where footage showed people dragging the injured out of blood-splattered pews, and at the Protestant Zion church in the eastern town of Batticaloa.’

One senior official spoke to reporters but was forced to do so under the condition of anonymity. Sri Lanka fears even worse violence with the ease of the spread of disinformation in the media and online.

‘Two of the blasts were suspected to have been carried out by suicide bombers, a senior official told The Associated Press, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak with reporters. Worshippers and hotel guests were among the dead, the official said.’

World leaders addressed reports of the story and offered sympathy for the victims and condemnation of the attacks. Pope Francis spoke of it during Easter services at St. Peter’s Basilica.

‘Speaking from the loggia of St. Peter’s Basilica, Francis said, “I want to express my loving closeness to the Christian community, targeted while they were gathered in prayer, and all the victims of such cruel violence.”’

‘“I entrust to the Lord all those who were tragically killed and pray for the injured and all those who are suffering as a result of this dramatic event,” the pope added.’

Featured image screenshot via YouTube