Sri Lanka says Easter bombing spree that killed 321 people was 'retaliation' for the mosque shootings in New Zealand

Sky NewsFootage broadcast by Sky News is said to show one of the suspects in the bombings walking with a large backpack toward St. Sebastian’s Church in Negombo, Sri Lanka.
  • Sri Lanka’s state minister of defence, Ruwan Wijewardene, said on Tuesday that investigators think the terrorist attacks on Easter Sunday were retaliation for the massacre of Muslim worshippers last month in Christchurch, New Zealand.
  • He told the country’s Parliament on Tuesday that “the preliminary investigations have revealed that what happened in Sri Lanka was in retaliation for the attack against Muslims in Christchurch.”
  • At least 321 people were killed in eight bombings targeting churches and hotels across Sri Lanka.
  • Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more stories.

Sri Lanka’s state minister of defence said on Tuesday that the Easter Sunday attacks that killed at least 321 people were “retaliation” for the shootings last month in Christchurch, New Zealand, that targeted Muslims and killed 50 people.

Ruwan Wijewardene told Sri Lanka’s Parliament that “the preliminary investigations have revealed that what happened in Sri Lanka was in retaliation for the attack against Muslims in Christchurch,” Agence France-Presse reported.

Wijewardene also said that the death toll from the eight bombings stood at 321 people, 38 of whom were foreigners. A further 375 are in hospitals with injuries, he said.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s office told The Associated Press on Tuesday that it had not “seen any intelligence upon which such an assessment” that the attacks were revenge “might be based.”

The attacks hit three churches and three five-star hotels:

  • St. Sebastian’s Church in Negombo.
  • St. Anthony’s Shrine in Colombo.
  • Zion Church in Batticaloa.
  • Shangri-La Hotel in Colombo.
  • The Cinnamon Grand hotel in Colombo.
  • The Kingsbury hotel in Colombo.

It’s unclear who carried out the attacks. Sri Lanka has blamed the militant Muslim group National Thowfeek Jamaath.

Citing Sri Lankan officials, The Wall Street Journal reported that “the sophistication and coordinated nature of the Easter-morning attacks have led Sri Lankan and international terror experts to conclude that those responsible had help from experienced foreign terrorists.”

Wijewardene did not give details about why investigators think the attacks were an act of revenge.

On March 15, a gunman in Christchurch opened fire at two mosques in quick succession, killing 50 people. A racist manifesto lamenting the end of white culture and promising to carry out an attack on a mosque in New Zealand was released online the day before the attacks. Brenton Tarrant, an Australian, has been charged with 50 counts of murder and is awaiting trial.

After speaking to Parliament, Wijewardene tweeted: “I demand the Government of #SriLanka to immediately ban National Thowheeth Jama’ath & to list them as a terrorist organisation.”

WijewardeneTRT World NewsRuwan Wijewardene, Sri Lanka’s state minister of defence, speaks to Parliament on Tuesday.

On Twitter, Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera called the attacks “a well coordinated attempt to create murder, mayhem & anarchy.”

Among the enhanced security measures Sri Lanka has imposed since the attacks are a nationwide curfew and the requirement that anyone parking a car on the street leave a note with their phone number on the windshield, The Associated Press reported. Its postal service is also no longer accepting prewrapped parcels, and the police have been given emergency powers.

Sri Lanka’s security agencies are under scrutiny, as it appears they had been anticipating some kind of attack but failed to stop it.

The deputy inspector general of police, Priyalal Disanayaka, told Sir Lanka’s security agencies on April 11 that an attack on “some important churches” from an extremist group was imminent, the AP reported.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said he would launch an investigation into why the agencies did not act on the information. He said that if they had, many lives could have been saved or attacks prevented.

INSIDER’s Rosie Perper previously reported that Sunday’s attacks were the first major act of terrorism in Sri Lanka since its civil war, which ended almost 10 years ago, after the defeat of the militant group the Tamil Tigers.

But there have been instances of religious violence in the years that followed.

In March last year, Sri Lanka declared a 10-day state of emergency when clashes between Muslim and Buddhist communities reached a fever pitch.

After the attacks on Sunday, Sri Lanka temporarily banned major social-media sites – an action it also took in March 2018.

Sri Lanka has a rising tourism sector, and Lonely Planet named it the No. 1 place to travel in 2019.

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