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SL remembers 2019 Easter attack victims amid COVID-19 restrictions

Colombo, April 21 (IANS) Sri Lanka on Tuesday remembered the over 250 people who were killed during the deadly Easter bombings that targeted churches and luxury hotels in the island-nation on this day last year.

On April 21, 2019, three churches in Negombo, Batticaloa and Colombo and the hotels — Shangri-La, Cinnamon Grand, Kingsbury and Tropical Inn — in the capital city were targeted in the series of coordinated suicide bombings, which apart from the victims also injured more than 500 people.

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However, the memorials to commemorate the victims had to be cancelled due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and restrictions enforced by the government to prevent it from spreading, reports Efe mews.

The Archbishop's House, headquarters of the Archdiocese of Colombo, also had to cancel a series of events planned in memory of the victims across the country.

Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith has urged all Sri Lankans to stay home and remotely attend on Tuesday a special program at 8.45 a.m. – the time when the first bomb went off.

All churches, temples, kovils and other religious places across Sri Lanka were set to ring their bells, followed by a two minutes silence and religious observances to commemorate the victims.

Sri Lankan authorities attributed the attacks to little-known local Islamist extremist groups, National Thowheeth Jama'ath and Jammiyathul Millathu Ibrahim.

However, the Islamic State claimed the attacks.

The unprecedented attacks raised serious doubts on the security and intelligence networks of the country.

Last week, Sri Lanka Police spokesperson Jaliya Senaratne said in a press conference that they were finally about to conclude the investigations in the terror case.

The Criminal Investigations Department had arrested 119 suspects, of which 40 continued to be in custody, while the Terrorist Investigation Division has arrested 78 others.

The attacks completely paralyzed the island nation for a few weeks, while its important tourism industry took a massive hit.

After a number of countries issued travel advisories against visiting Sri Lanka, tourism dipped by 70.8 per cent last May, according to statistics released by Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority.

The country received just 1.9 million visitors in 2019, an 18 per cent drop compared to the year before.

–IANS

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