Crime & Justice

Sri Lanka remembers deadly terror attack victims amid Covid-19 restrictions

By Aanya Wipulasena

Colombo, Apr 21 (efe-epa).- Sri Lanka on Tuesday relived the painful memories of the deadly Easter bombings that killed more than 250 people, and injured around 500 exactly a year ago on Apr. 21.

Shenobe Charles, 25, vividly remembers the agonizing sound she heard while being thrown to the floor on that fateful day at the St. Anthony’s Shrine, situated in Colombo’s Kochchikade area.

The young woman had gone to the church to celebrate Easter along with 18 of her family members.

When Charles came to her senses, her first reaction was to look for her mother, as she saw the church engulfed in flames.

When she finally found her mother, Mary Otrishiya Johnson, she was down on the floor unconscious with blood running down her nose and ears.

“It took time for us to take her out of the church. When we finally did, there was chaos outside. We couldn’t get an ambulance for her so we put her into a three-wheeler,” Shenobe said.

However, Mary, a 47-year-old mother of three, could not survive the journey. She died in Shenobe’s arms on their way to a hospital.

This Thursday her family had hoped to attend a special mass planned by the church to remember the victims of the carnage, in which terrorists targeted three churches and as many luxury hotels.

The family had also planned to host a lunch at an old age home nearby.

However, the memorials had to be cancelled due to the ongoing coronavirus epidemic and restrictions enforced by the government to prevent it from spreading.

“All of these events were cancelled because of the ongoing pandemic. We will only go ahead with the plan to give the lunch to the elders’,” said Charles, whose mother’s name is the 25th in a list of the 57 people killed at the church, displayed at a monument to remember those who “laid down their lives for God.”

The Archbishop’s House, headquarters of the Archdiocese of Colombo, also had to cancel a series of events planned in memory of the victims across the country.

Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith has urged all Sri Lankans to stay home and remotely attend on Tuesday a special program at 8.45 am – the time when the first bomb went off.

All churches, temples, kovils and other religious places across Sri Lanka were set to ring their bells, followed by a two minutes silence and religious observances to commemorate the victims.

Sri Lankan authorities attributed the attacks to little-known local Islamist extremist groups, National Thowheeth Jama’ath and Jammiyathul Millathu Ibrahim. However, the Islamic State claimed the attacks.

The unprecedented attacks raised serious doubts on the security and intelligence networks of the country.

Last week, Sri Lanka Police spokesperson Jaliya Senaratne said in a press conference that they were finally about to conclude the investigations in the terror case.

The Criminal Investigations Department had arrested 119 suspects, of which 40 continued to be in custody, while the Terrorist Investigation Division has arrested 78 others.

The attacks completely paralyzed the island nation for a few weeks, while its important tourism industry took a massive hit.

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