COLOMBO: The Sri Lankan High Commissioner to the UK has revealed that eight British citizens are among the hundreds killed in explosions in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday. It has been widely reported that they include a mother and her 11 year old son staying at the Shangri-La hotel. While the woman's daughter is yet to be accounted for, her husband is believed to have survived. Police say at least 290 people have been killed and 500 injured in eight blasts, six of which were in Colombo.
Manisha Gunasekera, Sri Lanka's high Commissioner to the UK, said, “As of now I think there's information on eight (British) nationals who have lost their lives.” The UK Foreign Office confirmed British nationals were among those killed but has not confirmed the number of victims. A spokesman said, “Our staff are supporting the relatives of the victims and are continuing to work with the relevant authorities to obtain further information.” British MP Tulip Siddiq has announced that she too has lost a relative in the blasts. Officials in Sri Lanka believe at least 35 foreign nationals are among the dead.
The Sri Lankan government believes a local Islamist extremist group called the National Thowheeth Jama'ath (NTJ) was behind the deadly suicide bomb attacks that killed nearly 300 people, government spokesman Rajitha Senaratne said. Senaratne, who is also a cabinet minister, added that the government was investigating whether the group had "international support". UK High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, James Dauris, said he had spoken with Britons in hospital “who have been affected by today's senseless attacks.” Dauris urged those still in the country to contact relatives and to follow instructions from local authorities.
St Anthony's Shrine and the Cinnamon Grand, Shangri-La and Kingsbury hotels were targeted. There were also explosions at a hotel near Dehiwala Zoo and in the residential district of Dematagoda. Blasts also took place in St Sebastian's Church in Negombo, a town approximately 20 miles north of Colombo, and at Zion Church in Batticaloa, on the east coast. Gunasekera said that the large Sri Lankan community in the UK has been “very concerned”. Gunasekera said the “magnitude and precision” of the attacks was “unprecedented”. She added that authorities were “doing everything that they can to bring the perpetrators to justice.” The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby condemned the attacks as “utterly despicable destruction” during his Easter address at Canterbury Cathedral.
Prime Minister Theresa May said the killings were “truly appalling” and “no-one should ever have to practice their faith in fear.” Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said he was “deeply shocked and saddened” by the “horrifying attacks”. He said there was “no hard knowledge” yet about the perpetrators of the atrocity, but added, “What we can say is there is a growing trend to attack Christians and these are not, on the whole, Christians in rich Western countries. These are some of the poorest people in the world, often people who are practising Christianity as a minority faith in the country that they are in.”
Prominent chef and daughter among people killed in bombings
A well-known chef and her daughter were among the hundreds of people killed in the Easter Sunday bombings in Sri Lanka. Shantha Mayadunne and her daughter Nisanga had been staying at the Shangri-La hotel when one of the four luxury hotels targeted in a morning of bloodshed. The update came as the Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry confirmed three Britons and two people holding joint US and British citizenship were among the victims of the Easter Sunday attacks. A British Foreign Office spokesman also confirmed that British nationals were among those killed and said their relatives are being provided support.
Nilanga's friend Radha Fonseco said, “Nilanga was a very popular girl in college. Besides the fact that she was bright and smart, her mother Shantha Mayadunne, a renowned chef, made her more popular in college. She (the mother) was well respected and an inspirational chef for Sri Lankans.”
The attacks mark the worst bout of violence in the South Asian country since its civil war ended a decade ago.