Sri Lankans demand justice for victims of 2019 Easter bombings on 4th anniversary

The bombings triggered a political storm

Sri Lanka Easter Bombings Sri Lankan Catholics hold banner during a silent protest march to mark the fourth year commemoration of the 2019, Easter Sunday bomb attacks on Catholic Churches, in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Friday, April 21, 2023 | AP

Thousands of Sri Lankans dressed in white and black clothes held a protest here on Friday, demanding justice for the victims of the devastating 2019 Easter bomb attacks that killed nearly 270 people, including 11 Indians.

Nine suicide bombers belonging to the local Islamist extremist group National Thawheed Jamaat linked to ISIS carried out a series of blasts that tore through three Catholic churches and as many luxury hotels on April 21, 2019, killing more than 270 people and injuring over 500.

The bombings triggered a political storm as then President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe were blamed for their inability to prevent the attacks despite prior intelligence being made available.

Thousands of people including Catholic clergy lined up for a silent protest on Friday, the fourth anniversary of the bomb attacks.

They blamed the government for not taking adequate measures to deliver justice for the victims.

The protesters, dressed in white and black, held one another's hands, forming a human chain.

At 8.45 am local time, a 2 minute-silence was observed for the victims.

The Church led by its Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, who has been at the forefront of the protests, accused the investigating agencies of a major cover-up.

President Sirisena and his establishment must be fully investigated, Cardinal said.

He called for the full implementation of recommendations of a presidential panel of investigations appointed by Sirisena.

In January, Sirisena apologised to the country's minority Catholic community for the 2019 Easter bombings, saying "the Catholic people hold no grudge against me."

"I say sorry to the Catholic community for something done by others, Sirisena had said.  Sri Lanka's Supreme Court ordered him to pay SLR 100 million as compensation to the victims.

Sirisena was the Sri Lankan president from 2015 to 2019.

A presidential panel of inquiry appointed by Sirisena after the attacks ironically found the then-president guilty of his failure to prevent the attacks.

He, however, pleaded not guilty to the charge in the case filed after the panel's findings.

Officials have charged dozens of people who allegedly received weapons training and participated in indoctrination classes from the two local Islamic extremist groups accused of carrying out the attacks.

But no one has yet been convicted or sentenced.

Meanwhile, the United States on Friday said it honours the victims of the Easter attacks, their families and all affected communities and stands in solidarity with those awaiting justice.

In a Twitter message, US Ambassador to Sri Lanka Julie Chung said, "Today I remember the hundreds of innocent people, including five Americans, who were murdered four years ago in a horrific act of terror on Easter Sunday. The US honours the victims, their families & all affected communities and stands in solidarity with those awaiting justice."  


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