July 21, 2019
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Grieving Sri Lanka buries its dead after Easter bombings

David Asta Alares

Negombo, Sri Lanka, Apr 23 (EFE).- The mass burial of the dead from the deadly Easter Sunday bombings in Sri Lanka began on Tuesday as the government declared a day of national mourning and raised the death toll from the attacks to 310.

Mourners struggled to hold back their tears as coffins, after an initial mass, were taken in a procession to a graveyard and buried in a row, close to each other, in a big grave near the Katuwapitya church in Negmobo, around 40 km (25 miles) north of Colombo.

A big mass of people attended the mass funerary service as mourners kept moving between the church and a cemetery – situated 500 meters away from each other – in a town with a large Christian population, a rarity in the largely Buddhist country.

“For the moment, we have buried 20 bodies. But I'm unsure of how many more we will bury," priest KA Samieera told EFE.

Already in a state of emergency, the country on Tuesday observed a day of national mourning with the Lion Flags on public buildings flying at half mast.

The national mourning began at 8.45 to coincide with the start of the deadly attacks on Easter worshipers at churches and guests at hotels.

Three minutes of silence were observed across the country to honor the dead.

In front of Colombo's St. Anthony Shrine — one of the three churches that was attacked and where scores of Easter worshipers were killed — a small group of people gathered on Tuesday to pray silently and pay respects to victims of the carnage.

According to the latest details provided to EFE by police spokesperson Ruwan Gunaseakara, the death toll has climbed to 310 while more than 500 people have been wounded in the mayhem.

The police spokesperson said 40 people suspected to be linked to the bombings had been arrested.

Most of the attacks were carried out by suicide bombers. The government suspected a possible foreign hand has linked the attackers to a little known local Islamist group, National Thowheed Jamath.

The series of attacks on Sunday began with six nearly simultaneous explosions, targeting three luxury hotels in Colombo and three churches, one in Colombo, another in Katana in western Sri Lanka and the third in Batticaloa in the east.

Hours later, a seventh blast took place in a small hotel situated around 10 km south of the capital. The eighth bombing occurred at a residential complex in Dematagoda, a neighborhood in Colombo.

Local authorities have linked the last two blasts, which killed five people including three police officers, to a possible escape attempt by terrorists involved in the attacks.

Sunday was the deadliest day in the country since the end of a civil war between Tamil rebels and government forces that began in 1983 and ended in 2009.

There were up to 40,000 deaths in the final phase of the war, according to data provided by the United Nations. EFE

daa-mt/ia/ssk

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