April 21 was a bloody Sunday in Sri Lanka. The series of bombings that occurred in three places simultaneously killed about 290 people, including at least 39 foreigners. An additional 500 others were wounded in the blasts. The attacks, timed for Sunday services on the Christian holiday of Easter, seemed designed to inflict the highest number of casualties possible on Sri Lanka’s minority Christian population.
According to the most recent statements from Sri Lanka’s government, on April 21 several suicide bombers conducted near-simultaneous attacks on three Christian places of worship and three luxury hotels in Colombo, Negombo, and Batticaloa. The individual bombers attacked the Cinnamon Grand and Kingsbury hotels and St. Anthony’s Shrine in Colombo; St. Sebastian’s Church in Negombo; and in the city of Batticaloa Zion Church. Two attackers were involved in the explosions at the Shangri-La Hotel in Colombo (“Sri Lanka Attacks: What We Know and Don’t Know” 2019). All seven attackers were Sri Lankan citizens linked to the local militant group National Thowfeek Jamaath, a Sri Lankan government official said.
Fear continued to grip Sri Lanka as additional bombs were discovered over the next day. More explosive devices were found on a road to the international airport near Colombo and defused late Easter Sunday and on Monday police found three bombs inside a van parked outside St. Anthony’s Shrine in Colombo. Some of the bombs that were found a van detonated while police attempted to defuse them, but no injuries were reported (“Sri Lanka Attacks” BBC news). The attacks proved to be the deadliest on Sri Lanka since the end of its civil war over the past decade. Nearly all victims were Sri Lankan, with many of them being Christian worshippers attending the Easter mass. However, dozens of foreigners were also killed in the blasts (Sugam, Euan, and Tara, CNN). Sri Lankan authorities reported that the attacks were carried out by two little-known Muslim organizations although they did not disclose the reason for the bombings.
According to BBC news, the Islamic State Group claimed responsibility for the attacks (“Sri Lanka Attacks” BBC news). The president of Sri Lanka gave the military powers to arrest and detain any suspects following the Easter Sunday bombings. Additionally, the president’s office announced late Monday that strict measures would be taken effective Monday midnight in addition to a curfew from 8 p.m.cc (“Sri Lanka Attacks” BBC news). Armed security forces stood guard on the access road leading to the international airport near Colombo the same day, and on all the street corners that were largely deserted with most shops remaining closed in central Colombo. BBC news stated that a possible cause could be a family network that is ensued in political in-fighting and factionalism to the top of the Sri Lankan government (“Sri Lanka Attacks: What We Know and Don’t Know” 2019). Some of the clues emerged when the Sri Lankan police stumbled upon 100 detonators and 100 kg explosives that were hidden in a coconut bush near the Wilpattu game reserve, in a remote area in the west coast district of the country. As police conducted their investigations on the attacks, four men who are connected to the newly formed radical Muslim organization were arrested. The Sri Lankan authorities say that the four bombers were family members who had been radicalized and operated as units (“Sri Lanka Attacks: What We Know and Don’t Know” 2019).
According to CNN’s Sugam, Euan and Tara (CNN) each of the radicalized units liaised with other radicalized groups to form more extensive networks of the terrorist. Small numbers of die-hard radicals and sympathizers have grown in secret over the past few years to build formidable networks that can cause severe damage to property and cause substantial loss of life in many nations around the world (Sugam, Euan and Tara, CNN). By forming deep networks, these radical groups have kept their movements, and intentions in secrete only to catch the public and the authorities off-guard. For the case of Sri Lanka, encrypted social media messages and networks have significantly contributed to effective communication among the terrorist that are off the government’s radar (“Sri Lanka Attacks: What We Know and Don’t Know” 2019). So far over seventy people are believed to linked directly with the Sri Lanka bombings have been arrested and are helping the authorities with investigations. According to one of the authorities’ reporters based in Sri Lanka, the investigators are trying to decipher how the terrorists communicated and coordinated their operations (Sugam, Euan and Tara, CNN). However, the main suspects who were directly involved in the attacks are still at large, so the national authorities are on high alert to avert a second wave of the attacks that is imminent. According to the theory of conventional terrorism, most suicide bombers require about five facilitators for a single attack. Therefore, about 45 guys for the nine bombers or more could have been involved in the Sri Lankan attacks, which raises more concerns.
The Sri Lankan attacks have had a significant effect on the Muslim communities which is the third-largest religion in the country that accounts for about 10 % of the population (Sugam, Euan and Tara (CNN). However, both the US and Indian forces intelligence officials had warned Sri Lanka of the attacks just hours before they occurred, although the Sri Lankan forces declined to act. Consequently, the warnings were the last in a series of unheeded alerts since April 4 and 11th intelligence memo that highlights the attacks on several churches as well as naming the plotters. According to CNN, the bombers who struck Sri Lanka were well-educated middle-class men, with some gaining their education from overseas such as Britain and Australia (Sugam, Euan and Tara (CNN,). The authorities claim that nine bombers blew themselves up and were comprised of one woman and eight men, including the leaders of the homegrown militant Islamist group that undertook the attack. Sri Lankan officials have warned of the danger of more attacks as police continue to find more explosives in various parts around the bombing sites. The search for the planners and people believed to be connected to the attacks are still ongoing. The government blames the National Thowheeth Jama’ath group for the attacks, although they have received foreign assistance in handling the investigations. Seventy people have been arrested so far in connection with the attacks, although more are still at large.
The deadliest explosion occurred at St. Sebastian’s church in Negombo where over 100 people were killed approximately 20 miles north of Colombo. Three officers who were at the bombing scenes died while searching for the attackers in the blasts (“Sri Lanka Bombings: Investigations Under Way”). On the other blast scenes, over 28 people died in Batticaloa Zion church on the east coast side of Sri Lanka. An unknown number of deaths occurred in the Catholic church in Colombo, but witnesses say there was “a river of blood” there. The police say the bombers entered the churches in disguise as Buddhist because they found dresses usually worn by women during prayer at temples. The police were able to account for six of the nine dresses that had been acquired from a local clothing shop in the capital. However, three sets of dresses are still missing.
Conversely, Al-Jazeera news reported the attacks in a different way from both BBC and CNN. Accordingly, Al-Jazeera reported that all the bombers in the attack were Sri Lankan citizens associated with a local militant group with foreign ties who were previously attacking Sufis and Buddhists (“Sri Lanka Bombings: Investigations Under Way” Al-Jazeera). The president noted that the attack affected and touched the whole of Sri Lanka because it is a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multi-religious country, that had come together to celebrate Easter holidays. The attacks punctured a decade of relative peace in the island following the end of its civil war 10 years ago. Four days following the attacks, the health ministry of Sri Lanka revised the death toll stating that 254 people had died. Conversely, the death toll is much lower than 359 deaths reported by CNN in Colombo. However, the health ministry stated that they are experiencing difficulty in identifying the bodies and the remains from the scenes although they have received substantial foreign aid from numerous nations around the world (“Sri Lanka Bombings: Investigations Under Way” Al-Jazeera). Following the attacks, the government of Sri Lanka blocked all the social media sites until a time when the investigations are concluded. Consequently, some social sites such as Facebook issued their condolences to those affected by the attacks.
Each newspaper article reviewed in the present study has used different ways of reporting the Sri Lanka attacks. Some of the news media houses such as CNN have exaggerated the number of deaths to exceed any other reporters. The reports from CNN do not necessarily portray the exact figures; thus they can cause more confusion among the public with regard to the Sri Lanka attacks. Other articles such as that of Al-Jazeera have presented the news with some level of bias since it is an Islamic news channel.
Through this process, I have learned that the production of news depends upon the political or religious standing of the institution. However, most of the reporting done by the various news media seem to rhyme, although there are distinctive characteristics unique to each news media. Some have the interests of their viewers at heart while others are reporting for the business aspect of media. Considering that the attacks occurred separately, although, in one country, there should have been the consistency of the news details among the four news media institutions. For example, there are varying differences in the number of deaths from the various news media, even though they all collected the information from the same scenes. Therefore, it baffles the audience as why the differences in the number of death toll exist, yet all the news media gathered information from one source.
The Easter attacks that occurred in Sri Lanka are one of the deadliest ever to hit the island. Over 290 people were killed and hundreds injured in a spate of attacks that coincided in three Christian churches in the island. Although the Sri Lankan authorities had been warned about the attacks, they failed to act in time to save the many lives that were lost. Additionally, foreign lives were lost in the attacks that have left the nation in a mourning mood and marked an important historical event that will be remembered for hundreds of years to come. Following the attacks, the government has taken precautionary measures by declaring a state of emergency and issuing a curfew from 8 p.m. Additionally, the government announced that they would hold a national day of mourning the following day in an endeavor to appease the many people who were affected by the attacks. Moreover, surveillance has been heightened because there is danger of more attacks as police continue to find more explosives in the scenes of the blasts.
“Sri Lanka Attacks: What We Know and Don’t Know.” The New York Times – Breaking News, World News & Multimedia, 26 Apr. 2019, www.nytimes.com/2019/04/24/world/asia/sri-lanka-easter-bombing-attacks.html.
“Sri Lanka Attacks.” BBC News, 15 May 2019, www.bbc.com/news/topics/cdmmjkw6krwt/sri-lanka-attacks.
“Sri Lanka Bombings: Investigations Under Way.” Breaking News, World News and Video from Al Jazeera, 7 May 2019, www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/05/sri-lanka-bombings-investigations-190507100614333.html.
Sugam Pokharel, Euan McKirdy and Tara John, CNN. “Bombs Tear Through Sri Lankan Churches and Hotels, Killing 250 People.” CNN, 25 Apr. 2019, edition.cnn.com/2019/04/21/asia/sri-lanka-explosions/index.html.
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