White House denounces 'despicable' Sri Lanka attacks


In May 2018, ISIS claimed responsibility for carrying out attacks at three churches in Indonesia, killing at least 12 people and injuring dozens more.

The government has acknowledged that it had "prior information" of attacks on churches involving a little-known local Islamist group but didn't do enough about it.

Catholics, split between the Sinhalese majority and the Tamil minority, make up 6.5 per cent of Sri Lanka's population, according to the nation's 2012 census. While anti-Muslim bigotry fed by Buddhist nationalists has swept the country recently, there is no history of Islamic militancy.

In total, 207 people were reported killed in the bombings throughout the day, and over 600 were said to be injured to varying degrees.

At least 66 people were killed in Colombo and 104 in the nearby town of Negombo, officials said.

They included five British people, two of whom had dual US citizenship, and three Indians, according to officials in those countries.

But the BBC in their latest update said at least 2007 people have been killed.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has urged the people to not propagate unverified reports and assured everyone that steps are being taken by the government to contain the situation.

"Information was there", he said at a news conference.

Swaraj also confirmed that the Indian Visa application centre in the island country, IVS LANKA will remain closed for two days, starting from Monday. He cited a foreign intelligence service as reporting that a little-known Islamist group was involved.

Relatives of a blast victim grieve outside a morgue in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Sunday, April 21, 2019.

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World leaders offered help in the probe and Sri Lankan investigators will look into whether the attackers had any "overseas links", he said.

Tillekeratne said the ground was covered in rubble and shattered glass with about 30 bodies lying in the church area.

In Colombo, St Anthony's Shrine and the Cinnamon Grand, Shangri-La and Kingsbury hotels were targeted in the first wave of explosions.

Local TV showed the Shangri-La's second-floor restaurant was gutted, with the ceiling and windows blown out.

The explosion at the Tropical Inn happened later and there was an eighth explosion at the house that was the subject of the police raid in Colombo.

"We can confirm that British nationals were among those killed in today's horrific attacks in Sri Lanka", a Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokeswoman told AFP.

Hours later there were further explosions in Dehiwala and Dematagoda on the outskirts of Colombo.

According to the National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka, there were 86 verified incidents of discrimination, threats, and violence against Christians previous year.

This year, the NCEASL recorded 26 such incidents, including one in which Buddhist monks allegedly attempted to disrupt a Sunday worship service, with the last one reported on March 25.

"New Zealand condemns all acts of terrorism and our resolve has only been strengthened by the attack on our soil", Ardern 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", Francis said from the loggia of St. Peter's Basilica. Christians worldwide celebrated Easter on Sunday, commemorating the day on which Jesus Christ is believed to have risen from the dead. "In case required, we are ready to despatch our medical teams as well", she added.