Authorities in Sri Lanka continue to seek answers while its citizens mourn the Easter massacre of at least 290 people in what was believed to be attacks by radical Islamists on churches, hotels and other public places.
In eight separate attacks in three cities—Colombo, Batticaloa and Negombo, where the deadliest attack on a church killed at least 104 people—nearly 500 were wounded in addition to the dead.
Defense Minister Ruwan Wijewardena said at least 24 suspects had been arrested, reportedly “religious extremists” believed to be radicalized Islamists, though no group had yet claimed responsibility for the bloodshed in the small nation off the southern coast of India. Some of the attacks were suicide bombings, the Associated Press reported.
“My prayers are with the victims and their families after multiple Easter Sunday bombings in Sri Lanka,” Franklin Graham wrote on his Facebook feed after the first news reports broke. “At least 200 people have been killed and hundreds more are injured and suffering. The targets have been not only churches, but hotels in the country. It’s hard to image so much hatred in a person’s heart that they would target innocent people to slaughter on the most holy day of the Christian faith. Jesus is alive, the tomb is empty, and we celebrate a risen Savior!”
President Trump tweeted on Sunday: “The United States offers heartfelt condolences to the great people of Sri Lanka. We stand ready to help.”
Meanwhile, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement: “The United States condemns in the strongest terms the terror attacks in Sri Lanka on Easter morning. Attacks on innocent people gathering in a place of worship or enjoying a holiday meal are affronts to the universal values and freedoms that we hold dear, and demonstrate yet again the brutal nature of radical terrorists whose sole aim is to threaten peace and security. … These vile attacks are a stark reminder of why the United States remains resolved in our fight to defeat terrorism.”
At least four U.S. citizens were killed, CNN reported this morning, including one identified as Dieter Kowalski of Colorado, who died after a blast in his hotel in Colombo.
Attacks on churches included St. Anthony’s Shrine in Colombo, where the number of dead remained unconfirmed on Monday; St. Sebastian’s Church in Negombo, where 104 perished; and Zion Church in Battacoloa, where 28 died.
In 2014, the three-day Celebration of Grace with Will Graham drew 33,100 people to hear the Gospel message in Moratuwa, a suburb of Colombo, with nearly 7,000 salvation decisions recorded. Local organizers at the time referred to the Celebration as the largest evangelistic outreach ever held in the largely Buddhist nation.
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