"Like a deja-vu": Easter attacks awaken memories in Sri Lanka
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Colombo (dpa) - "Like a déjà vu" Gerhard Tauscher describes the bloody Easter Sunday from the perspective of Sri Lankans.
The attacks on churches and hotels are a relapse into dark times, says Tauscher, who is responsible for the deployment of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement in the capital Colombo. "There's a lot of china smashed."
Next month marks the tenth anniversary of the end of Sri Lanka's civil war, which lasted a good quarter of a century. It seemed that the South Asian island nation had finally left the violence behind, even though tensions remained. Tourism flourished. On Sunday, within half an hour, both suffered serious damage - the peace and image of the country as a dream holiday destination.
Much is still uncertain. Little is known about the attackers, although there have been arrests. Government officials vaguely speak of extremist groups. Their victims were above all Christians, who celebrated the Easter service in three churches. The perpetrators had probably targeted foreigners, because three five-star hotels in Colombo were also among their goals. At least one of the attacks was, as the police suspect, committed by a suicide bomber.
Chaos prevails in the affected churches after the explosions. Pictures show wood debris of a church roof on the ground. There are also bloodied people trying to help each other. On a video you can see how immobile victims are carried out of a church. Shocked-looking people run through shards of dirt. Screams are heard. "I've seen people thrown out of their seats," says Jude Sebestian, who attended Easter Mass in the St. Anthony's Church in Colombo.
"Terrible scenes," tweets Sri Lanka's Minister of Economic Reform, Harsha de Silva. "I have seen many body parts scattered everywhere." Among the more than 200 dead and hundreds injured are some foreigners, but the vast majority are locals.
In the Civil War, the Tamil Eelam Liberation Tigers (LTTE) fought from 1983 to 2009 for an independent Tamil state in the north of the tropical island. The LTTE carried out suicide bombings across the country and blew up trains. The army bombed the settlement area of the Tamils. It is estimated that around 100,000 people died during the civil war. Both sides are accused of war crimes.
The conflict is still smoldering in the Tamil areas in the northeast of the country on a low flame. And there are other tensions in Sri Lankan society. Last year, attacks by angry mobs of the Sinhalese Buddhist majority against Muslims, fueled by rumors spread through social media. In the ten years since the end of the war, however, there had been no more attacks. And neither Christians - who make up only about seven percent of the population - nor foreigners had become the target of violence.
A few hours after the first six explosions, it suddenly pops twice on Sunday afternoon, in another hotel and neighborhood in suburban Colombo. According to the government, these are the same perpetrators who have been identified and have now fled. A curfew comes into force, access to social media is blocked. This should bring peace.
In the supermarket, many people would have quickly covered themselves with the essentials, says Gerhard Tauscher. The curfew should initially apply until Monday morning. "We assume that this lasts much longer," says Tauscher. So fast, Sri Lanka will not return to the normalcy it has enjoyed in the past decade.
Video from a church after the plot
Tweet of the Minister of Economic Reform