New attacks on Sri Lanka churches planned, cardinal says

Colombo Church BombingCOLOMBO, Sri Lanka – Sri Lanka’s Catholic cardinal received “foreign information” that attempts would be made this week to attack a church and another church institution, according to a letter he sent Thursday to church officials that later appeared on social media.

Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, the archbishop of Colombo and an outspoken critic of the Sri Lankan government’s apparent failure to act on Indian government intelligence ahead of the Easter attacks, said in the letter that he was closing churches and Catholic schools throughout Sri Lanka and canceling public congregations for Mass “until further notice.”

“For your own good, we have decided to close down those institutions,” he wrote.

Church spokesman Father Edmund Thilakaratne in an interview confirmed the authenticity of the letter to The Associated Press but declined to disclose further details, including the source of the foreign information.

An Islamic State-linked group of Sri Lankan nationals carried out coordinated suicide bombings on Easter Sunday at three churches and three luxury hotels on the island that killed 257 people.

Earlier Thursday, Tillakaratne had said that Ranjith canceled all Sunday services for a second week in the diocese based on the latest security reports.

Last week, Muslims were told to stay home for Friday prayers and all of Sri Lanka’s Catholic churches were closed. Instead of the usual Sunday Mass, Ranjith delivered a homily before clergy and national leaders at his residence that was broadcast on television.
Abdur Razik

General Secretary of Ceylon Thawheed Jama’ath Abdur Razik displays a copy of Tamil language translation of a holy Quran during a press conference in Colombo, Sri Lanka, May 2, 2019. (Credit: Eranga Jayawardena/AP.)

Sri Lanka’s Muslim leaders, however, were encouraging Muslims to return to mosques for Friday prayers, according to N.M. Ameen, president of the Muslim Council of Sri Lanka.

Ameen said the security situation seemed to have improved, though the group had asked the government for additional protection.

Officials have warned that suspects linked to the bombings are still at large.

A Cabinet minister said Tuesday that intelligence warnings had indicated government ministers could be targeted by the same group, which pledged its loyalty to Islamic State militants.

The death toll from the April 21 bombings at churches and luxury hotels rose to 257 people from 253 last week, Health Ministry chief Dr. Anil Jasinghe said Thursday. He said 47 people were still being treated in hospitals, including 12 in intensive care.


Buddhist Shrine Sri Lanka

An elderly Sri Lankan Muslim woman walks past a Buddhist shrine in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Thursday, May 2, 2019. Catholic services are being canceled for a second weekend in Sri Lanka’s capital after the government warned of more possible attacks by the same Islamic State-linked group that carried out Easter suicide bombings. (Credit: Eranga Jayawardena/AP.)

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