Two Australians among hundreds killed in Sri Lanka bombings

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Two Australians among hundreds killed in Sri Lanka bombings

Updated

April 22, 2019 17:32:30

Two Australians are among 290 people killed in terrorist attacks on churches and luxury hotels in Sri Lanka, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has confirmed.

Key points:

  • Up to 290 people were killed in bombings at churches and luxury hotels across Sri Lanka
  • Scott Morrison said two of those killed were Australian, and two other Australians were among hundreds injured
  • A Sri Lankan investigator said the bombings were carried out by seven suicide bombers

Mr Morrison said both victims were members of the same family and were living in the country at the time.

“We deeply regret these deaths and we extend our deepest and most sincere sympathies to the family,” he said.

“As the days pass and the injured are treated and some of them succumb to their wounds, we are seeing this massacre go from what was bad, very bad, to much, much worse.”

Two other Australians, both women, one in her 50s and the other in her 20s, are among hundreds of people who were injured in the Easter Sunday attacks.

Mr Morrison said one woman received shrapnel wounds and the other suffered a broken leg.

Earlier today Sri Lankan authorities confirmed the death toll from the attacks had risen to 290, with around 500 injured.

The coordinated bombings were carried out by seven suicide bombers, Sri Lankan government forensic crime investigator Ariyananda Welianga said.

He said most of the attacks were carried out by lone bombers, but said two attackers struck at Colombo’s Shangri-La Hotel.

Authorities also confirmed today they had “prior information” of an imminent attack on churches, up to 10 days before the bombings.

Two government ministers have alluded to intelligence failures.

Telecommunications Minister Harin Fernando tweeted: “Some intelligence officers were aware of this incidence. Therefore there was a delay in action. Serious action needs to be taken as to why this warning was ignored.”

He said his father had heard of the possibility of an attack as well and had warned him not to enter popular churches.

And Mano Ganeshan, the minister for national integration, said his ministry’s security officers had been warned by their division about the possibility that two suicide bombers would target politicians.

The police’s Criminal Investigation Department, which is handling the investigation into the blasts, will look into those reports, police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekara said.

Still no claim of responsibility for bombings

Earlier, Sri Lanka’s Defence Minister Ruwan Wijewardena described the blasts as a terrorist attack by religious extremists.

Police said 13 suspects had been arrested, but there was no immediate claim of responsibility.

News outlet Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported it had seen documents showing that Sri Lanka’s police chief Pujuth Jayasundara issued an intelligence alert to top officers 10 days ago, warning that suicide bombers planned to hit “prominent churches”.

“A foreign intelligence agency has reported that the NTJ [National Thowheeth Jama’ath, a radical Muslim group in Sri Lanka] is planning to carry out suicide attacks targeting prominent churches as well as the Indian high commission in Colombo,” the alert said, according to AFP.

Officials are yet to officially bsay who they believe is behind the attacks.

The Tamil Tigers, once a powerful rebel army known for its use of suicide bombers, was crushed by the government in 2009, and had little history of targeting Christians.

While anti-Muslim feeling has swept the island in recent years, fed by Buddhist nationalists, the island has no history of violent Muslim militants.

The country’s small Christian community has seen only scattered incidents of harassment in recent years.

ABC/wires

Topics:

terrorism,

sri-lanka,

australia

First posted

April 22, 2019 16:42:52

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