At least 359 people were killed and more than 500 were wounded in a series of bombings targeting several churches during the celebration of Easter Mass, as well as tourist hotels. The Sri Lankan authorities are accusing the Islamist organization National Thowheeth Jama'ath (NTJ).
“The bomb blew up in the church as we ended our prayers, singing ‘Glory to God.’ And then nothing, just images of death that went by in silence, I could only hear a whistling in my ears,” remembers Dilishya Fernando, (Le Monde, April 23, 2019).
Dilishya lost her husband in the blast that killed at least 28 people in the St. Anthony of Padua Church of Kochikade, in Colombo. Pradeep Kumar, a Hindu who lives near the shrine, said he heard an explosion around 8:45 in the morning. “I heard the noise and quickly ran to the church. Then I saw many people killed and injured. I helped transport the wounded to the hospital,” he explained to Ucanews.
Heavier casualties were listed in the provisional report on the Church of San Sebastián de Negombo de Colombo, called “Little Rome”: 800 people were attending Mass when a kamikaze triggered his infernal machine. One hundred deaths are reported.
The other victims were killed in a Protestant place of worship in Batticaloa—the former capital—and in various hotels in the capital.
Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith, Archbishop of Colombo, went to the Church of San Sebastián and denounced this “beastly and inhuman act,” condemning “with all his strength this act that caused people so much death and suffering.”
The Finger of Islam
From Rome, Robert Cardinal Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, reacted: “I condemn this barbaric Islamist violence.”
From the very beginning, the Sri Lankan authorities have considered this to be the responsibility of and pointed the finger at an Islamist sect that appeared three years ago on the island: the National Thowheeth Jama'ath.
As Russia Today reports, this movement was the subject of an alert issued by the police ten days before Easter, according to which [the NTJ] prepared several suicide bombings against the churches of the Christian minority, as well as the Indian embassy to Colombo.
The responsibility of foreign jihadist groups is not to be dismissed: “there are international terrorist groups behind the local terrorists,” President Maithripala Sirisena told Agence France-Presse.
This is not surprising: the two main international jihadist agencies, al-Qaeda and the Islamic State organization, for years have been seeking to recruit in the Muslim communities of the Indian subcontinent. Their propaganda emphasizes the harrassment of would be victims, who, according to them, are the Muslims in the region.
On the afternoon of April 23, the Islamic State organization eventually claimed the authorship of the bombings that blew up the feast of Easter on the island.