Sri Lanka attacks: Toll goes up to 290, includes 8 Indians

Colombo: Eight Indians, including five activists of political party JD-S, were on Monday confirmed dead in Easter Sundays multiple terror attacks in Sri Lanka as the overall toll rose to 290, on a day which saw recovery of 87 detonators.

The Sri Lankan government blamed a local Muslim group, National Thowheed Jamath (NTJ), for the horrific attacks, with President Maithripala Sirisena saying intelligence reports indicated that foreign terrorist organisations were behind the “local terrorists” and that he would seek the assistance of foreign countries.

The police said 14 people have been arrested in connection with the well-planned attacks, which, Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne said, was a result of “colossal intelligence failure” as there was prior information about the attack. He demanded the resignation of the Inspector General of Police.

“As a government, we apologize to families and other institutions. The problem is that even when we met the Prime Minister at the Cabinet meeting, the Prime Minister was also in the dark,” he said.

Meanwhile, the death toll on Monday rose to 290, including 30 foreigners.

They included eight Indians, five of whom were Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) activists from Karnataka who were on a holiday after the end of Lok Sabha elections in Bengaluru.

The five were identified as Shivanna, K.G. Hanumantharaya, M. Rangappa, K.M. Laxminarayan and Lakshmana Gowda Ramesh.

On Sunday, Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had said three Indians were among the dead. She had named them as Ramesh, Lakshmi and Narayan Chandrashekhar.

A Sri Lankan woman, with roots in Kerala, P.S. Razeena, was also among those killed in the attacks.

More than 500 people were wounded, many seriously, in the Sunday horror and were warded in hospitals even as the government investigated the complex network that meticulously targeted three luxury hotels in Colombo and a church each in Colombo, Negombo and Batticaloa besides two other locations in the national capital.

On Monday, 87 detonators were found from the main bus station at Pettah in Colombo while a bomb the security forces were trying to defuse exploded near the St Anthony Church in Colombo, triggering panic in the area.

An improvised explosive device (IED) was also detected near the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) on Monday morning and was defused in controlled explosion by the Sri Lanka Air Force, according to the Daily Mirror.

Police said that they had seized a van and its driver who allegedly transported some suspects into Colombo and also raided a safe house used by the attackers.

While no group has claimed responsibility for the bloodbath, Senaratne told the media: “NTJ was involved. It is a local organisation. We don’t know whether they are linked to outsiders. All those arrested are locals.”

But he too admitted that without an international network, “these attacks could not have succeeded”.

The government said it will hold an official funeral on Tuesday to pay tributes to the nearly 300 people killed on Easter Sunday.

With schools shut nationwide and traffic on a low key, Sri Lanka reeled under the shock of the terror attack.

There were curbs on some social media networks to try and stop misinformation from spreading.

The first of the eight blasts took place on Sunday morning in three luxury hotels — Cinnamon Grand, Shangri-la, Kingsbury — in the heart of Colombo and in a church each in Colombo, Negombo, 30 km from here, and in the Tamil-majority Batticaloa town in the island’s east that was once a Tamil Tiger stronghold.

Later in the afternoon, another blast hit a guest house near the zoo in Dehiwala in Colombo, killing two persons, and a housing complex at Dematogoda in the city leaving three policemen dead.

Sri Lanka’s National Security Council on Monday announced plans to impose a “conditional state of Emergency” from midnight.

It said the measures would target terrorism and would not limit freedom of expression.

Meanwhile, the US State Department said that terrorist groups continued to plot possible attacks in Sri Lanka and urged Americans visiting that country to exercise increased caution.