Sri Lankan terror hits churches & hotels

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Eight bombs have been detonated on the island of Sri Lanka; including at least three in churches where worshippers were gathered for Easter Sunday services, and a further three explosions targeted high-end hotels, including  the Shangri-La Colombo, Kingsbury Hotel in Colombo and the Cinnamon Grand Colombo. The explosions are reported to have injured over 700 people and killed 321, with citizens from Japan, the UK, US and the Netherlands confirmed among the fatalities; an official from the Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry has confirmed that 39 foreign nationals were among those killed. These included eight Britons, several US tourists, three Danish citizens, two Turkish nationals, two Chinese nationals one Dutch national, six Indians, two Australians and one Portuguese national. Twenty-eight foreign nationals are receiving treatment. Sri Lankan tourism officials have made arrangements to assign a special representative to the hospitals where injured tourists are receiving treatment and to the three hotels affected by the attacks. The Tourism Ministry and Ministry of Foreign Affairs are also working with local diplomatic offices in order to ensure formalities with regard to the victims are sorted out as quickly as possible.

Following the initial six explosions detonated by suicide bombers, police carried out raids at two addresses, and there were further explosions at both. Several hours later, a bomb was found at the national airport during a routine inspection; it was safely disposed of by the authorities.

Ranil Wickremesinghe, Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, tweeted in the aftermath of the attacks: “I strongly condemn the cowardly attacks on our people today. I call upon Sri Lankans during this tragic time to remain united and strong. Please avoid propagating unverified reports and speculation. The government is taking immediate steps to contain this situation.” Sri Lankan officials have placed blame for the attacks on an Islamist group called National Thowheed Jamaath, and also indicated that the group had received assistance from overseas, raising speculation that ISIS fanatics were involved. Cabinet spokeswoman Raijitha Senaratne was quoted as saying: "We do not believe these attacks were confined to this country. There was an international network without which these attacks could not have succeeded."

The day after the attacks, the US State Department revised its advice for tourists intending to travel to Sri Lanka, noting that anyone planning a trip should 'exercise increased caution due to an increased risk of terrorism, adding that terror groups 'continue to plan attacks with targtes including tourist locations and hotels. Australia's Smartraveller programme changed its travel advice for Sri Lanka, saying that tourists should 'reconsider their need to travel'. The advice further stated: "Australians are advised to avoid all affected areas and minimise movement until the situation stabilises. If you're travelling during curfew hours, prearrange transport with the necessary curfew permits, either through your hotel or local host well in advance. Carry relevant travel and ID for any checkpoints. Follow the advice of local authorities and monitor the media for updates." The UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office, meanwhile, stated: "Terrorists are very likely to carry out attacks in Sri Lanka." However, there was no advice that tourists should not travel to the island. Tourists who decide not to travel due to the risk of a further attack are unlikely to find coverage from their travel insurance, unless they have paid for Cancel for Any Reason cover. Disinclination to travel is not typically a covered risk in the vast majority of travel insurance policies, and CFAR insurance is not widely available in Europe, although it is popular in the US and gaining traction in Australia as well.

Assistance companies have reported to ITIJ that they have deployed crisis teams to locate affected clients in Sri Lanka.