Easter Sunday blasts: Sri Lanka names local Islamist group National Thowheed Jamaath

Sophisticated attacks point to wider international groups, says Minister; 30 held.

April 22, 2019 02:45 pm | Updated November 28, 2021 09:48 am IST - COLOMBO

Searing pain:  Lalitha is inconsolable at the funeral of her 11-year-old niece, Sneha Savindi, at Negombo in Sri Lanka on Monday. Sneha died in Sunday’s blast at St. Sebastian Church.

Searing pain: Lalitha is inconsolable at the funeral of her 11-year-old niece, Sneha Savindi, at Negombo in Sri Lanka on Monday. Sneha died in Sunday’s blast at St. Sebastian Church.

Sri Lankan authorities on Monday named a little-known local Islamist radical group, the National Thowheed Jamaath, as responsible for the ghastly Easter Sunday serial blasts that claimed over 250 lives and injured over 500 across the island nation.

President Maithripala Sirisena   has decided to enforce a state of emergency from midnight on Monday. The police have arrested nearly 30 suspects in connection with Sunday’s coordinated explosions at churches and hotels in and around Colombo and in Batticaloa, in the island’s Eastern Province.

Meanwhile, a van parked near one of the attacked churches exploded on Monday, but no casualties or injuries were reported. The police also said they found 87 bomb detonators at a Colombo bus station.

 

International network?

While no domestic or international organisation has so far claimed responsibility for the attacks, Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne said the National Thowheed Jamaath had perpetrated the attack using suicide bombers. “All suicide bombers are believed to be Sri Lankan nationals,” he said. However, Mr. Senaratne said, “We do not believe these attacks were carried out by a group of people who were confined to this country... There must be an international network, without which these attacks could not have succeeded.”

 

The government did not name any network or organisation believed to have links with the Sri Lankan radical group.

President Maithripala Sirisena on Monday convened an emergency meeting of the National Security Council (NSC) and formed a high-level panel to probe the incidents. The Council announced imposition of a “conditional state of emergency”, a statement from the President’s media unit said.

Further, a statement from the President’s office said Sri Lanka would “seek international assistance”, as intelligence agencies reported there were “international organisations behind these acts of local terrorists”.

The government declared Tuesday as a national day of mourning.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi assured Sri Lankan President Sirisena that New Delhi was ready to “provide any assistance at any time” to help combat terrorism, according to a statement from the President’s office.

Mr. Modi, who called Mr. Sirisena on Monday to convey his condolences, said, “The relationship between the two countries will remain in a strong manner in the future as well.”

 

So far eight Indians have been identified among those dead. Sri Lanka’s Foreign Ministry on Monday confirmed the death of H. Shivakumar, the Indian mission here tweeted.

Bodies of almost all the victims of Sunday’s blasts have been handed over to families, but nearly 20 bodies are yet to be identified, Director General of Health Services Anil Jasinghe said.

“Most injured patients are continuing to get treated but we have a few patients who came with very serious injuries, including head injuries, who had to undergo surgeries,” he told The Hindu .

The 57 injured patients admitted to the Batticaloa teaching hospital, including six persons at the ICU, were “stable and recovering”, hospital director Kalaranjani Ganesalingam said.

On Monday, several funeral services were held at Negombo, some 40 km north of Colombo, with relatives and friends of victims gathering in solidarity.

The National Security Council decided that all May Day rallies be cancelled in the interest of security, local media reported.

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