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CNN: Sri Lanka bomb suspect's sister fears 18 relatives dead after attacks

CNN: Sri Lanka bomb suspect's sister fears 18 relatives dead after attacks

29 April 2019 | 00:38 | FOCUS News Agency
Colombo . The sister of the suspected ringleader of Sri Lanka's deadly Easter Sunday bombings has told CNN up to 18 of her family members are missing and feared dead since the attacks and subsequent raids.
More than 250 people were killed and at least 500 injured in a series of coordinated suicide bombings at churches and hotels across the island April 21.
A week on, the country is still on high alert with warnings there could be more attacks in the coming days, MPs told CNN Sunday.
Mohamed Hashim Mathaniya is the sister of Mohamed Zahran Hashim, the man Sri Lankan authorities believe was one of the leaders of the attacks.
He appeared in a video released by an ISIS-linked news agency before blowing himself up on Easter Sunday.
Speaking to CNN on Saturday, Mathaniya said she identified her brother from photographs of his body parts at the police station earlier in the week.
"Five men went missing after the attacks (on Sunday). They were my three brothers, my father, and my sister's husband," she said.
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AFP: All Sri Lanka Catholic church services suspended

AFP: All Sri Lanka Catholic church services suspended

25 April 2019 | 09:18 | FOCUS News Agency
Colombo. All of Sri Lanka's Catholic churches have been ordered to stay closed and suspend services until security improves after deadly Easter bombings, a senior priest told AFP Thursday, AFP reported.
"On the advice of the security forces we are keeping all churches closed," the priest said. "There will be no public mass said until further notice."
Security has already been stepped up at churches across the country, government officials said.
A string of suicide bomb attacks targeting three churches -- two of them Catholic -- and three hotels on Sunday killed at least 359 people and wounded hundreds.
The attacks came as churches were packed with worshippers attending Easter Sunday services.
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AFP: Sri Lanka imposes state of emergency after attacks blamed on Islamists

AFP: Sri Lanka imposes state of emergency after attacks blamed on Islamists

23 April 2019 | 02:24 | FOCUS News Agency
Colombo. Sri Lanka on Tuesday imposed a state of emergency hours after the government blamed a local Islamist group for a series of suicide bomb blasts that killed at least 290 people, including dozens of foreigners, reported AFP.

Twenty-four people have been arrested over the coordinated Easter Sunday assault on multiple churches and hotels in the capital Colombo and beyond, authorities said.

The carnage -- which also left some 500 people injured -- was the worst atrocity since the South Asian country's civil war ended a decade ago.

The attacks were also the worst ever against Sri Lanka's small Christian minority, who make up just seven percent of the country's population of 21 million.

Investigators are now hunting for clues on whether the National Thowheeth Jama'ath (NTJ) group received "international support", said cabinet minister and government spokesman Rajitha Senaratne.

The spokesman added that it was not possible for such "a small organisation" to carry out such well coordinated suicide strikes.

The state of emergency, which gave police and the military special powers to counter militant strikes, came into force at midnight (1830 GMT Monday). Suspects can be detained without a court order.

The country was already observing a second straight night-time curfew since the attacks.

Officials are also investigating why more precautions were not taken after an April 11 warning from Sri Lanka's police that a "foreign intelligence agency" had reported the NTJ planned suicide attacks on churches.

Senaratne said that warning was not passed on to Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe or other top ministers.

"Intelligence sections have reported that there are international terror groups which are behind local terrorists," President Maithripala Sirisena's office said in a statement.

Sirisena was due to meet with foreign diplomats on Tuesday "to seek international assistance to combat terrorism", his office said.

- Toll mounts, tensions high -
Tensions remained high, with a bomb detonating as police prepared to defuse it near one of the targeted churches. Although there was a powerful blast, no injuries were reported.

Police also found 87 bomb detonators at a Colombo bus station.

The toll rose dramatically Monday to at least 290 dead.

A police source told AFP that at least 37 foreigners were killed, while the tourism minister put that figure at 39 and the foreign ministry said there were 31 foreigners among the fatalities.

That number was likely to shift again, as the United States reported at least four Americans killed -- including a young student -- and the Netherlands raised their toll to three.

A Danish billionaire lost three of his children in the attacks, a spokesman for his company said.

The death toll also included eight Britons, eight Indians and nationals from Turkey, Australia, France, Japan and Portugal, according to Sri Lankan officials and foreign governments.

Several of those killed were dual nationals.

The suicide bombers hit three Colombo luxury hotels popular with foreign tourists -- the Cinnamon Grand, the Shangri-La and the Kingsbury -- and three churches: two in the Colombo region and one in the eastern city of Batticaloa.

Two additional blasts were triggered as security forces carried out raids searching for suspects.

Interpol said it was deploying investigators and specialists to Sri Lanka, and the US State Department warned of possible further attacks in a travel advisory.

"This is America's fight, too," US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters in Washington.

- Memories of civil war -
Ethnic and religious violence has plagued Sri Lanka for decades, with a 37-year conflict with Tamil rebels followed by an upswing in recent years in clashes between the Buddhist majority and Muslims.

A memorial service and funeral were to be held Tuesday at St Sebastian's church in Negombo, north of Colombo, where more than 100 people were killed Sunday.

Among the dead were friends of 16-year-old Primasha Fernando, who was at her home nearby when the suicide bomber struck.

"When I got to the church, there were people crying and screaming," she told AFP.

"I saw bodies everywhere," she added in tears. "I saw parents carrying their dead babies."

At a government morgue in Colombo, relatives endured the gruesome task of identifying their loved ones.

Janaka Shaktivel, 28, father of an 18-month-old son, sat in shock outside the building waiting for the body of his wife to be handed over.

He said he escaped the blast at St Anthony's Shrine in Colombo because the baby had started crying and he had to go outside.

"I recognised her body from the wedding ring that she always wore," he said. "I have no words to explain my feelings."

Two leading Muslim groups issued statements condemning the attacks, with the All Ceylon Jamiyaathuul Ulama, a council of Muslim theologians, urging the "maximum punishment for everyone involved in these dastardly acts."

The attacks drew global condemnation, including from US President Donald Trump and the pope.
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Reuters: Blast near church while Sri Lanka bomb squad was trying to defuse device

Reuters: Blast near church while Sri Lanka bomb squad was trying to defuse device

22 April 2019 | 15:07 | FOCUS News Agency
Colombo. An explosion went off on Monday in a van near a church in Sri Lanka where scores were killed the previous day, when bomb squad officials were trying to defuse it, a Reuters witness said, Reuters reported.
“The van exploded when the bomb defusing unit of the STF (Special Task Force) and air force tried to diffuse the bomb,” the witness said.
Security force spokesman were not immediately available for comment.
Reporting by Sanjeev Miglani; Editing by Robert Birsel
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AFP: Sri Lanka government declares state of emergency

AFP: Sri Lanka government declares state of emergency

22 April 2019 | 13:21 | FOCUS News Agency
Colombo. Sri Lankan authorities have ordered a state of emergency to be introduced from midnight Monday following the deadly Easter attacks, the president's office said, AFP reported.
The special measures are being brought in "to allow the police and the three forces to ensure public security," the statement said, referring to the army, navy and air force.
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AFP: Several Americans killed in Sri Lanka attacks

AFP: Several Americans killed in Sri Lanka attacks

21 April 2019 | 19:16 | FOCUS News Agency
Washington. Several Americans were among the more than 200 people killed Sunday in a series of bombings of hotels and churches in Sri Lanka, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, AFP repoted.
"While many details of the attacks are still emerging, we can confirm that several US citizens were among those killed," he said in a statement. "The US Embassy is working tirelessly to provide all possible assistance to the American citizens affected by the attacks and their families."
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AFP: Toll in Sri Lanka blasts rises to 207

AFP: Toll in Sri Lanka blasts rises to 207

21 April 2019 | 16:37 | FOCUS News Agency
Colombo. The toll in a series of eight blasts in Sri Lanka on Sunday has risen to at least 207, with over 450 people wounded, police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera said, AFP reported.
Speaking at a press conference, he said three people had been arrested in connection with the attacks that mostly targeted high-end hotels in the capital and churches where worshippers were attending Easter services.
Gunasekera said the police were investigating whether suicide bombers were involved in all of the blasts.
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AFP: Toll in Sri Lanka blasts rises to 156, including 35 foreigners

AFP: Toll in Sri Lanka blasts rises to 156, including 35 foreigners

21 April 2019 | 11:06 | FOCUS News Agency
Colombo. The toll in a string of blasts Sunday at churches and hotels in Sri Lanka has risen to at least 156, including 35 foreigners, a police official told AFP.
A hospital source said Americans, British and Dutch citizens were among those killed in the six blasts, which also injured hundreds of people.
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AFP: At least 42 dead in Sri Lanka church, hotel blasts

AFP: At least 42 dead in Sri Lanka church, hotel blasts

21 April 2019 | 08:47 | FOCUS News Agency
Colombo. At least 42 people were killed Sunday in a string of blasts at hotels and churches in Sri Lanka as worshippers attended Easter services, a police official told AFP.
The explosions hit three high-end hotels in the capital, where a church was also targeted. Two additional churches were hit, one near Colombo and the other in the east of the country, police said.
At least one of the victims was killed in Colombo's Cinnamon Grand Hotel, near the prime minister's official residence, where the blast ripped through a restaurant, a hotel official told AFP.
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PICTURE OF THE DAY
PACE adopts resolution allowing Russia return to organisation. June 25, 2019
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VIDEO OF THE DAY
Focus Agency was distinguished at the fifth edition of Company of the Year;
Focus Agency was distinguished at the fifth edition of Company of the Year;
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