Explosions at Sri Lanka Churches and Hotels Claim 290, Injure 450+
April 21, 2019 9:23 PM   Subscribe

Eight explosions, some the result of suicide bombers, hit Colombo, Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday, including three churches and four hotels, killing 290 and injuring 450, a count which included at least 35 foreigners, including Americans, British, Portuguese, and Chinese.

Places hit include the Shangri-La, the Kingsbury, the Cinnamon Grand, the Tropical Inn, and two Catholic and one Protestant churches. A bomb near the airport was defused. While no group has yet claimed responsibility, AFP reported that the police chief issued an intelligence alert (original) 10 days ago warning of suicide bombers targeting prominent churches, although Thawheed Jamaath, the group blamed in said memo, has denied responsibility, and the Eastern Province governor dismissed allegations against them.
posted by WCityMike (57 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
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posted by suncages at 9:24 PM on April 21, 2019 [1 favorite]


There are no words to respond to this tragedy.
If people know of and can suggest reputable, effective ways to donate to help, it would be appreciated.
posted by greermahoney at 9:34 PM on April 21, 2019


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posted by ChuraChura at 9:37 PM on April 21, 2019


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Here is a very good article discussing the broader context around Islam in Sri Lanka, and the rising islamaphobia, discrimination, and violence muslims in Sri Lanka have faced from the general population and militant Buddhist in particular for many years.
Sri Lankan Muslims have been admirably restrained, disciplined and non-violent in their response to what is now five years of severe, sustained and often violent pressure. One can only hope that this continues to be the case, though continued violent provocations — and the failure of the police to protect Muslims — will test their patience. There has been no evidence of any violent extremism among Sri Lankan Muslims, other than a few clashes in years past between adherents of a more austere, reformist style of Islam and Muslims whose practices are considered to be Sufi-inflected.

posted by smoke at 9:40 PM on April 21, 2019 [7 favorites]


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posted by sallybrown at 9:49 PM on April 21, 2019


Last night the first time I read about the explosions on the BBC website it said 20+ had been killed, which was bad enough, and the death toll and injured have just soared from there to unthinkable numbers. Just horrible.

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posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 10:14 PM on April 21, 2019 [1 favorite]


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posted by inflatablekiwi at 10:14 PM on April 21, 2019


Authorities immediately blocked access to Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Viber and Youtube.

Context on the social media crackdown from the NYT:
Last year, the government briefly blocked social networks after viral rumors and calls to violence, circulating largely on Facebook, appeared to provoke a wave of anti-Muslim riots and lynchings.

Government officials had repeatedly warned Facebook, which also owns Instagram and WhatsApp, that the posts could lead to violence.

Company officials largely failed to respond until the government shut down access, after which they promised to hire more moderators and improve communication.
Rather than trusting in Facebook and other companies to police their networks for hate speech or incitement that could arise as a result of Sunday’s attacks, the government was treating the platforms as too dangerous to remain online.
Sri Lanka’s action “is a damning indictment” of companies that once portrayed the platforms as vehicles for liberation.
posted by ascii at 10:24 PM on April 21, 2019 [45 favorites]


Jesus Fucking Christ. I've been mostly avoiding the news this weekend, so I knew there had been a bombing but I didn't realize the scale of this atrocity. This is horrifying and nauseating.

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posted by homunculus at 10:30 PM on April 21, 2019 [1 favorite]


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posted by lalochezia at 10:32 PM on April 21, 2019


Yes the viral misinformation on FB also came up in the interview I posted. It's hard to view facebook especially has anything other than a facilitator of racial/religious violence in these contexts.
posted by smoke at 10:38 PM on April 21, 2019 [11 favorites]


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posted by Kattullus at 11:15 PM on April 21, 2019


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posted by sukeban at 11:15 PM on April 21, 2019


Bombing churches celebrating Easter, the most joyful day of the liturgical year for both faiths, is a special kind of evil that I cannot begin to understand.

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posted by corb at 11:22 PM on April 21, 2019 [2 favorites]


Saw this on the news this morning. Sickening.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:45 PM on April 21, 2019


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posted by Mister Bijou at 11:46 PM on April 21, 2019


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posted by mordax at 12:00 AM on April 22, 2019


This is so devastating. The country had just left its bloody civil war behind, and now this. I keep thinking about a friend of mine in high school-- his father was a high ranking Tamil Tiger and had sent him far far away to small town US to try to keep him safe and he was there in that town clinging to a student visa at a local SUNY. I lost track of him after school but while we were there, I remember him telling stories about his home in happier times. It's always been a story wrapped in sorrow and blood.

Lately, Sri Lanka has been hugely popular with tourists. I have three different friends who were in different parts of the country when the bombs went off. Fortunately, all are fine. Obviously the worst of it was aimed at Sri Lankan Christians, but it also is just as clearly targeting tourism. Just when the country was getting its feet under itself. So terrible on so many levels.
posted by frumiousb at 12:16 AM on April 22, 2019 [7 favorites]


The part that keeps standing out to me in the articles I've read:

"Authorities also confirmed today they had "prior information" of an imminent attack on churches, up to 10 days before the bombings."
ABC Australia - confirming 2 of the dead are Australian.

Just. You had information. Ten days.

Attacking churches at Easter.

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posted by freethefeet at 12:19 AM on April 22, 2019 [8 favorites]


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posted by I claim sanctuary at 12:35 AM on April 22, 2019


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posted by XMLicious at 12:40 AM on April 22, 2019


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posted by Joe in Australia at 2:48 AM on April 22, 2019


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posted by filtergik at 3:32 AM on April 22, 2019


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posted by solotoro at 3:52 AM on April 22, 2019


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posted by colin.jaquiery at 4:12 AM on April 22, 2019


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posted by daybeforetheday at 4:17 AM on April 22, 2019


As if Sri Lanka hasn't been through enough.
posted by Evstar at 4:24 AM on April 22, 2019 [2 favorites]


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posted by lungtaworld at 4:39 AM on April 22, 2019


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posted by randomonium at 4:41 AM on April 22, 2019


Another explosion, in Kochikade, but from an intentional detonation by a bomb squad. Democracy Now! was just interviewing a human rights lawyer named Bhavani Fonseka in Colombo and she confirmed this.
posted by XMLicious at 5:53 AM on April 22, 2019


So heartbreaking. . to the lives lost and those injured and . to the general Muslim community who will pay the price for the extremists.
posted by biggreenplant at 6:01 AM on April 22, 2019 [1 favorite]


(I hope the Muslim community isn't further targeted but what I meant is that it's always day to day people who suffer for extremists. in every religion)
posted by biggreenplant at 6:03 AM on April 22, 2019 [2 favorites]


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posted by Barack Spinoza at 6:15 AM on April 22, 2019


It's hard to view facebook especially as anything other than a facilitator of racial/religious violence

Facebook makes fear and hate viral. Facebook is the accelerant which turns sparks into infernos.

Facebook was supposed to connect people and liberate the oppressed. But it's become a malevolent force that even Facebook can no longer control.
posted by ascii at 6:33 AM on April 22, 2019 [12 favorites]


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posted by nicebookrack at 7:35 AM on April 22, 2019


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The horror. This morning, I was woken by a colleague who called to tell me the identity of the Danish victims, which is relevant to our work. It's not someone I know, it was three children of a very wealthy person. But just because of the slight connection, I could suddenly imagine the terror of both the children and their parents very vividly. I still feel overwhelmed many hours later.
But, I went to check out the details on a tabloid website (because tabloids are best at that sort of stuff), and on this site, the comments and the journalists' updates flow in the same stream. One comment was "is this related to the terrorist attack on Notre Dame?". No one replied. I didn't create an account to tell the journalists to do their goddamn jobs, but I suppose I should at least have written a mail to them.
posted by mumimor at 8:08 AM on April 22, 2019 [3 favorites]


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posted by dinty_moore at 8:19 AM on April 22, 2019


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posted by sarcasticah at 8:38 AM on April 22, 2019


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posted by riruro at 8:50 AM on April 22, 2019


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posted by JoeXIII007 at 9:11 AM on April 22, 2019


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posted by aerotive at 9:39 AM on April 22, 2019


mumimor: "It's not someone I know, it was three children of a very wealthy person."

Three children of Asos billionaire killed in Sri Lanka attacks
posted by chavenet at 10:59 AM on April 22, 2019


So heartbreaking. . to the lives lost and those injured and . to the general Muslim community who will pay the price for the extremists.

The weird thing is that there isn't a history of Christian/Muslim violence in Sri Lanka with both groups making up less than 10% of the population. Nor is there much Hindu/Muslim violence, although the Tamil Tigers are a generally very conservative Hindu ethnic group with no love for Muslims in India. There's no way this was a home grown Islamic attack, which if truly carried out by Islamic extremists, then who backed them and how is that going to change regional politics?

There is a history of harassment of Catholics by extremists within the Buddhist majority and I am not sure one can immediately accept the government's statement that it was an Islamic group and that the perpetrators are in custody.

It's bad shit all around.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 11:11 AM on April 22, 2019 [2 favorites]


I deliberately didn't want to link to who it was. The family has fair reasons to be very private.
posted by mumimor at 11:12 AM on April 22, 2019 [1 favorite]


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posted by gudrun at 11:15 AM on April 22, 2019


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posted by fiercecupcake at 11:42 AM on April 22, 2019


> the Tamil Tigers are a generally very conservative Hindu ethnic group with no love for Muslims in India.

The Tamil Tigers also pioneered suicide bombing vests with their high-profile murder of Indian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, son of assassinated prime minister Indira Gandhi, in 1991. The female assassin touched his feet in a mark of respect before detonating her explosives.

There are no easy answers in the Indian subcontinent.
posted by RedOrGreen at 11:44 AM on April 22, 2019 [3 favorites]


Oh man.
posted by aspersioncast at 4:24 PM on April 22, 2019


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posted by TwoStride at 6:54 PM on April 22, 2019


Horrifying. I saw the headline earlier, but had no idea the death and injury toll was so high.
posted by biogeo at 8:01 PM on April 22, 2019


There's no way this was a home grown Islamic attack, which if truly carried out by Islamic extremists, then who backed them and how is that going to change regional politics?

From The Indian Express in 2017, AQIS [Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent] goes vernacular with Tamil, Hindi, Bengali texts online
posted by Mister Bijou at 9:46 PM on April 22, 2019


PBS links to a few places to donate, only a couple so far. They also urge caution in donating to unverified fundraisers popping up across GoFundMe-type sites.
posted by nicebookrack at 10:09 PM on April 22, 2019


Multiple suicide bombings like this are not very common. Suicide bombers often change their mind before completing the attack, and having multiple simultaneous attacks increases that chance exponentially. It sounds as if Sri Lanka's security forces did find out about it, but in any event: training multiple attackers also increases the chance that the attackers will be discovered. Also, it's not too easy to recruit suicide bombers; I'm surprised that whoever organised this was able to recruit and indoctrinate seven attackers, each of which carried out their task.

It's hard to reconcile all this with reports that the attacks were carried out by a small group. I would have expected a much larger group, with more potential recruits to draw on, and multiple organisational levels to protect the people behind it. Something like al-Qaeda back in the day, with international resources and recruitment, not a local group with only local resources and local recruits to draw on. Anyway, I'm sure we'll find out more as time goes on.
posted by Joe in Australia at 12:05 AM on April 23, 2019


After the Easter Bombings, Sri Lanka Grapples with Its History of Violence by Samanth Subramanian. Excerpt:
The attacks also needed to be parsed with caution because of Sri Lanka’s complex religious and ethno-linguistic fabric and because of the knotted states of tensions between communities. The civil war, which began in 1983, was fought between a Tamil-speaking minority and a state that favored the Sinhalese-speaking majority. But overlaid upon this conflict were religious nuances. The Sinhalese mostly practice Buddhism, the faith given “the foremost place” by the country’s constitution; seventy per cent of Sri Lankans are Buddhist. Some Sinhalese are Christian, as are some Tamils; most Tamils are Hindu. Muslims, forming barely a tenth of the population, also speak Tamil, but, during the war, they were largely uninvolved with, and even targeted by, the Tigers. After the war, Buddhist extremist groups—nurtured by the Sinhalese nationalist party then in power—repeatedly singled out Muslim-owned shops and mosques for violence. In 2017, the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka expressed its concerns over “the spate of attacks” on Christians. A week ago, a Methodist church in the city of Anuradhapura was set upon by a crowd throwing stones and firecrackers; the church had to conduct its Good Friday services under police protection. Commentators like to say that the island has enjoyed a period of calm since the end of the war, but the past decade has not always been easy for minorities to negotiate.

Aware of the easy flammability of communal relations, authorities were spare in their initial briefings on Sunday. Twenty-four suspects have been arrested, but their names were not revealed. Ruwan Wijewardene, the junior defense minister, urged reporters not to identify the suspects; he would only say that the attackers were all part of a single group. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe pleaded with citizens to “avoid propagating unverified reports” and to remain “united and strong.” The government seemed to be straining every nerve in order to prevent the country from descending into the kind of spiral of retributive violence that it has suffered in the past.
posted by Kattullus at 1:41 AM on April 23, 2019 [5 favorites]


ISIS has claimed responsibility, although that has not been verified. Sri Lankan government is now blaming a local Islamist group (National Thowheed Jamaath).
posted by thefoxgod at 12:38 PM on April 23, 2019 [1 favorite]


Twitter thread on the ISIS link by Rukmini Callimachi of the NYT, with lots of details on the alleged attackers.
posted by Joe in Australia at 11:01 PM on April 23, 2019




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