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World

Nearly 300 People Are Killed In Easter Sunday Attacks In Sri Lanka

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Coordinated bombings across Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday killed at least 290 people and wounded more than 500 others. These blasts hit luxury hotels as well as churches. The country's health minister confirms that all the suicide bombers were local, but they had the help of an international network. The Archbishop of Colombo spoke after the attacks.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MALCOLM RANJITH: And I ask all our Sri Lankan people not to take the law into their own hands and to maintain peace and harmony in this country.

GREENE: The U.S. State Department, in a revised travel advisory, is warning that terrorist groups continue plotting possible attacks in Sri Lanka. Journalist Lisa Fuller is in Sri Lanka's capital, Colombo. Lisa, thanks for taking the time for us this morning.

LISA FULLER: Thanks for having me.

GREENE: So what are we learning about who carried this out?

FULLER: So we have rapidly changing and evolving information. So the health minister gave a press conference saying that the attacks were carried out by a group called the National Thowheeth Jama'ath and that they may have had the assistance of an international network but that they - all of the bombers were Sri Lankan. But at that same time, there was another minister giving a briefing saying that the attacks were carried out by a gang and not an organized outfit. So basically, throughout the last 24 hours, the only thing that is completely clear is that there are divisions within the government. And sort of that lack of coordination may have had something to do with the lapses in security.

GREENE: Who is the group who you did mention, who might have done this?

FULLER: They're not a group that anyone - or not very many people are familiar with. They are purportedly Islamic extremists, but it's not a name that is known well within Sri Lanka.

GREENE: As I understand it, you have a relative who was right outside one of the churches when an explosion there happened. Can you tell me what you've heard from that relative?

FULLER: Yeah. My sister-in-law was parking her motorcycle outside one of the churches, about to go in for the Easter service, when the bomb went off. So yeah, she's safe and fine, but there were children that were sort of thrown from the blast right out in front of her. So it was pretty gruesome in terms of, you know, the bodies and the carnage that she was describing, which I guess is what you expect in attacks like this.

GREENE: Yeah. Well, I'm glad she's OK. These attacks - I mean, this comes - what? - like, 10 years after the civil war in Sri Lanka ended. I mean, are people suggesting this is somehow tied to the forces that were at work in that conflict?

FULLER: So - yeah, it's almost exactly 10 years after - in fact, next month it'll be 10 years. But this violence looks nothing like anything in the civil war. That was fought between the majority Sinhala Buddhist government and a separatist group from the minority Tamil communities. Tamils are Christian and Hindus. And Muslims are not only a separate religion, but they're also a separate ethnic group in Sri Lanka.

So I mean, even after the civil war, there were much lower levels of violence. But this - in terms of scale and in terms of form in Sri Lanka, we haven't seen anything like this in recent history.

GREENE: Journalist Lisa Fuller is in the Sri Lankan capital, Colombo, on Skype with us this morning. Thanks for your reporting.

FULLER: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.