Based on multiple News Reports
and followed by a graphic 5-minute video
WHEN WILL THE TERROR END?
On Easter Sunday, one of the holiest of Christian holidays, a series of coordinated suicide bomb attacks targeting churches and hotels swept across the island nation of Sri Lanka. By the time the smoke cleared, nearly 300 people had died, and hundreds more had been injured.
The vast majority of the victims were Sri Lankan, but citizens of eight other countries, including the US, were reportedly killed in the attacks as well.
Authorities have blamed an Islamist militant group called National Thowheeth Jama’ath for the devastating explosions and are holding 24 people in custody. The Sri Lankan government believes that the group had help from an international terrorist organization in carrying out the attacks.
The bombings come after a decade of relative calm in Sri Lanka — though it’s been rocked by ethnic tensions and fighting in the past.
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An emergency law granting police and the military extensive powers to detain and question suspects without court orders goes into effect at midnight, Sri Lanka’s presidency announced Monday, following Easter attacks that killed at least 290 people.
President Maithripala Sirisena’s office announced that the nationwide emergency law, which gives police and the military sweeping new powers to detain and interrogate suspects without a court’s approval, will go into effect at midnight. A government curfew is also set to begin at 8pm.
Colombo, the seaside capital of the Indian Ocean island, was still jittery on Monday. Police said 87 bomb detonators were found at the city’s main bus station, while an explosive went off near a church where at least 290 were killed on Sunday when bomb squad officials were trying to defuse it.
The bomb attacks were the worst violence seen in Sri Lanka since the country’s 37-year-long conflict with Tamil rebels ended a decade ago.
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• The government on Monday blamed a little-known radical Islamist group for the devastating Easter Sunday suicide bombings that killed nearly 300 people. Officials said the group, which had not carried out any serious attacks before, had received help from an international terrorist organization.
• Sri Lanka’s security forces were warned at least 10 days before the bombings that the militant group was planning attacks against churches, but apparently took no action against it, indicating a catastrophic intelligence failure. Top government officials say the warning never reached them.
• The Sri Lankan police have arrested 24 people in connection with the explosions at hotels and churches.
The Sri Lankan tourism minister, John Amaratunga, said that at least 39 foreigners were among the dead. Those countries that have confirmed their citizens were killed include Australia, Britain, China, Japan, Portugal and the United States.
Ruwan Gunasekera, a police spokesman, would not reveal how many people had been killed at each location.
The identities of the victims have started to emerge.
Who are National Thowheeth Jama’ath?
Officials on Monday said a little-known Islamist group that promotes a terrorist ideology in South Asia was responsible for the attacks. The group, National Thowheeth Jama’ath, had a reputation for vandalizing Buddhist statues but little history of carrying out terrorist attacks.
Rajitha Senaratne, the health minister, called the group “a local organization” and said the suicide bombers appeared to be Sri Lankan citizens. “All are locals,” he said at a news conference on Monday.
But, he added, “there was an international network without which these attacks could not have succeeded.”
In a news release, Mr. Sirisena, the president, said that, according to Sri Lanka’s intelligence agencies, “there are international terrorist organizations behind these incidents.”
No one has publicly claimed responsibility for the bombings.
A forensic analysis of body parts found at six sites determined that seven suicide bombers conducted attacks at three churches and three hotels, according to The Associated Press. Most attacks were carried out by lone bombers, but two men targeted the Shangri-La Hotel in Colombo. Two other bombings at a guesthouse and at the suspects’ apparent safe house remain under investigation.
Sri Lanka does not have much history of Islamist terrorism. The country is predominantly Buddhist, with significant Hindu, Muslim and Christian minorities.
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Religion in Sri Lanka
Theravada Buddhism is Sri Lanka’s biggest religious group, making up about 70.2% of the population, according to the most recent census. It is the religion of Sri Lanka’s Sinhalese majority. It is given primary place in the country’s laws and is singled out in the constitution.
Hindus and Muslims make up 12.6% and 9.7% of the population respectively.
Sri Lanka is also home to about 1.5 million Christians, according to the 2012 census, the vast majority of them Roman Catholic.
VIDEO : 5.43 mins