Seattle Sri Lankans to hold prayer service for churches bombed on Easter

Nearly 300 people in Sri Lanka died and 500 other were injured in a series of explosions that targeted hotels and Roman Catholic churches on Easter Sunday.

The Sri Lankan government on Monday accused local extremist organization National Thowheeth Jama’ath as responsible for the attacks. More than a dozen people have been arrested in connection with the attacks. The group has not claimed responsibility, or made any announcements about the attacks. The government in December accused the group of vandalizing Buddhist statues in December.

Rajitha Senaratne, Sri Lanka’s health minister, said during a news conference that the seven suicide bombers who carried out the attacks were Sri Lankan citizens tied to the organization. Authorities are not ruling out international connections.

“There was an international network without which these attacks could not have succeeded,” Senaratne said at the conference.

New York Times reported that National Thowheeth Jama’ath is a relatively new group that holds Muslim extremist views, and that an attack of this scale could have had the help of international groups.

The Sri Lanka Red Cross Society is collecting donations after the attacks, pledging to help authorities with donations of blood and providing psychosocial support.

Locally, Tukwila’s Sarana International Buddhist Center, where many local Sri Lankans worship, will hold a prayer event for the victims on April 26 at 7 p.m.

Organizer Sathya Mallawaarachchi, of Everett, told the Seattle Times that he hopes it will give members of the local Sri Lankan community an opportunity to mourn together.

Researcher Amarnath Amarasingam, editor of “Sri Lanka: The Struggle for Peace in the Aftermath of War,” in the hours after the attacks posted context about Sri Lanka’s political and social history.

Senaratne said at the Monday news conference that Sri Lankan authorities had received warnings regarding a possible attack about two weeks ago. The French news agency AFP  reported that police chief Pujith Jayasundara sent out an intelligence alert in early April claiming that National Thowheeth Jama’ath was planning attacks.

However, information was not shared with the prime minister and other officials, according to the New York Times. The Times reported that there is an ongoing political conflict between Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and President Maithripala Sirisena.

“We must look into why adequate precautions were not taken,” Wickremesinghe told the New York Times.

The Sri Lankan government recently announced that it had temporarily blocked social media in the country, saying it was to prevent the spread of misinformation about the bombings.

“Please avoid propagating unverified reports and speculation,” Wickremesinghe tweeted shortly after the attacks. “The government is taking immediate steps to contain this situation.”

The attacks have been denounced by public officials globally, including President Donald Trump, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Prime Ministers Theresa May and Imran Khan, and others.

“Strongly condemn the horrific blasts in Sri Lanka,” Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted. “There is no place for such barbarism in our region. India stands in solidarity with the people of Sri Lanka. My thoughts are with the bereaved families and prayers with the injured.”

“New Zealand rejects all forms of extremism and stands for freedom of religion and the right to worship safely,” New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in a statement. Ardern was praised for her response to the recent attacks on mosques in New Zealand.

The Sunday Times of India reported that each victim of the attacks will be paid 1 million Sri Lankan rupees. 100,000 Sri Lankan rupees will be offered on an individual basis to cover the costs of funeral processions.