Sri Lanka mass cancelled over ‘specific attack threat’

Sri Lanka’s Catholic Church has cancelled plans to resume Sunday services following a “specific threat” of fresh bomb attacks against at least two places of worship, a spokesman said.

The archbishop of Colombo, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, had wanted to resume regular mass from May 5, but the new information made them put it off indefinitely, his spokesman said on Thursday.

“On the advice of the security forces, we have decided not to have Sunday masses in any of the churches,” the spokesman said. “There is a specific threat against two locations.”

The Church had planned to resume Sunday public services for the first time since the Easter Sunday attacks that killed 257 people.

Last Sunday the cardinal conducted a private memorial mass that was broadcast live on television after cancelling all public services.


On Tuesday, he said he was closely monitoring investigations into the April 21 suicide attacks against three churches and three luxury hotels and wanted to be sure of the security situation before returning to regular services.

The services were cancelled a day after all political parties scrapped May Day rallies amid fears of bomb blasts.

The cardinal had hoped to start regular services at a few churches from Sunday and then expand depending on the situation.

Armed guards 

Armed guards have been stationed outside churches across the country since the Easter attacks.

The cardinal has also been given several bodyguards and a large security contingent.

However, he returned a bullet-proof limousine that was given by the government and instead travelled in an ordinary car.

“I am not afraid. I don’t need bullet-proof vehicles to go about. The Lord is my protector,” he said. “But I want security for my people, and for the country.”

Ranjith said he had concerns about the progress of security operations against jihadists behind the worst single-day attack against civilians in the country’s history.

The Church is also calling for tougher laws to deal with the perpetrators.

Police say they have arrested more than 150 suspects since the attacks and have accounted for all six jihadi suspects who were declared as most-wanted.

Two suspects have been killed while the other four were in custody, police said.

President Maithripala Sirisena announced on Friday that the authorities believed there were 140 Islamic State-inspired jihadists in Sri Lanka and he had ordered security forces to track them down.

The Easter attacks were blamed on the local National Thowheeth Jama’ath (NTJ) whose leader was among the suicide bombers. The group had pledged an oath of allegiance to the Islamic State.

The death toll from the attacks has climbed to 257, authorities said earlier Thursday, warning that the final number would rise further.

At least 40 of the dead are foreigners, with some missing tourists still to be accounted for.

According to the latest count, 496 injured were admitted to hospitals, with 47 still being treated and 12 of those in intensive care.

The government had given a toll of more than 350 but brought this down last week, blaming double counting of bodies that were badly mutilated in the six blasts.

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Amal Jayasinghe
Amal Jayasinghe
Bureau Chief, Sri Lanka / Maldives, Agence France - Presse (AFP)

Related stories

Advertising

Subscribers only

Poachers in prisons tell their stories

Interviews with offenders provide insight into the structure of illegal wildlife trade networks

Covid-overflow hospital in ruins as SIU investigates

A high-level probe has begun into hundreds of millions of rand spent by the Gauteng health department to refurbish a hospital that is now seven months behind schedule – and lying empty

More top stories

The politics of the Zuma-Zondo showdown

Any move made by the Zondo commission head or by former president Jacob Zuma must be calculated, because one mistake from either side could lead to a political fallout

Pay-TV inquiry probes the Multichoice monopoly

Africa’s largest subscription television operator says it is under threat amid the emerging popularity of global platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime

​No apology or comfort as another Marikana mother dies without...

Nomawethu Ma’Bhengu Sompeta, whose funeral will be held this weekend, was unequivocal in calling out the government for its response to the Marikana massacre

Children may benefit when parents share their digital gaming...

Digital games can provide forums for diverse groups of people to come together, which is especially important while our physical activities are restricted
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…