On 20 April, Easter Sunday, three churches and four hotels were bombed in Sri Lanka, resulting in over 300 deaths and 500 casualties. The attacks happened in and just outside the major city of Colombo.
This tragedy terrified the country, especially as it has happened in places of worship that should be sanctuaries for the public. Each of these churches were Catholic, as Catholic people, although a small minority, are seen as a threat by many in the community. The first of the four blasts was reported within half an hour of the next one, and a few hours later, three new blasts were reported. In the first hour, photos emerged, in which rubble and blood could be seen strewn about the churches.
There was no immediate claim to the attack. However, police chief Pujuth Jayasundara had issued a warning ten days before that there may be suicide attacks on prominent churches. Nadu Thowheed Jamath (NTJ), a radical group, has previously attacked the area. There was an initial understanding that this had come from local groups, and it was thought to be unlikely that there were overseas links. In the first 24 hours, people from different groups were arrested. There has been some discussion as to why more precautions were not taken, despite the warnings. As the cases continue around finding suspects, no further information has come out.
Despite the earlier warnings, this attack was unexpected for the country, as the country has not seen such large-scale violence since the civil war. There were added fears as, despite a high level of violence previously being common within the country, this type of coordination was unprecedented. While the first blasts happened almost simultaneously, blasts targeting further churches and hotels continued later in the day, adding to the fear of unpredictability as well as the lack of knowledge around who may have organized such a large-scale attack. The response to this terror was almost instantaneous. Within hours, tweets were posted from Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, who declared the attacks as “cowardly,” and the Prime Minister of India, who said that “there is no place for such barbarism in our region.” There was also a nationwide curfew implemented, as well as a controversial social media ban to stop the spread of misinformation. Further in the week, meetings between government and military officials were organized to understand why this happened and how this can be prevented in the future.