A week after church and hotel bombings, danger still lurks.
A week after terrorist attacks hit churches and luxury hotels in Sri Lanka, Catholic churches are shuttered for Divine Mercy Sunday.
“Catholic leaders canceled Sunday Masses indefinitely across Sri Lanka and officials urged Muslims to stay home for Friday prayers in an extraordinary call by the clergy to curtail worship as fear of more attacks plagued the island nation after the deadly suicide bombings on Easter,” the Associated Press reported.
The nation has been on high alert since last Sunday, when more than 250 people were killed. Earlier, the death toll was put at 359, but on Thursday night, Sri Lanka’s Health Ministry reduced its estimate to “approximately” 253 people.
Officials from the police to the prime minister say militants remain on the loose and have access to explosives. That has led to increased security at shrines, churches, temples and mosques across the multiethnic country of 21 million off the southern coast of India. Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith told journalists that church officials had seen a leaked security document describing Roman Catholic churches and other denominations as a major target. Ranjith, who is the archbishop of Colombo, asked the faithful across Sri Lanka to stay home for their own safety. “We don’t want repetitions,” Ranjith said.
Fifteen people, including six children, were killed on Friday when suspected Islamist militants blew themselves up in a raid, the BBC reported:
The raid occurred in Sainthamaruthu, near the hometown of the suspected ringleader of the Easter Sunday attacks. … Gunmen opened fire as troops attempted to raid a house, police said. Three men set off explosives, they added, killing the children and three women. Three others died in gunfire.
Also this week, priests allowed journalists inside one of the bombed churches, St. Anthony Shrine in Colombo, where broken glass littered a blood-stained floor, said AP.
In the wake of the April 21 bombings, the Islamic State group released a video showing Mohammed Zaharan, head of National Thowheeth Jama’ath, an obscure terrorist group thought to be the perpetrators, leading masked, black-clad disciples as they pledged allegiance to ISIS.