Official: Easter Bombings Were 'Revenge for Christchurch'

American 5th-grader was among Sri Lanka victims
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 23, 2019 6:31 AM CDT
Updated Apr 23, 2019 6:58 AM CDT
American 5th-Grader Died in Sri Lanka Bombings
Catholic nuns attend a funeral service attended by Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith for Easter Sunday bomb blast victims at St. Sebastian Church in Negombo, Sri Lanka, Tuesday, April 23, 2019.   (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)

The father of 11-year-old Kieran Shafritz de Zoysa says his "articulate and insightful and kind" son was one of the Americans killed in the Sri Lanka Easter Sunday bombings. The fifth-grader was staying with his mother in Sri Lanka during a leave of absence from the prestigious Sidwell Friends School in Washington, DC, NBC reports. Father Alexander Arrow says Kieran, whose mother and grandmother survived the suicide bombing at the Cinnamon Grand Hotel, was "just a foot in the wrong direction." He says Kieran dreamed of becoming a neuroscientist. "The terrorists had no idea who they were killing," he says. "Who they happened to hit was an incredible person who was going to do great things." Authorities say the death toll from the attacks has now hit 321, including four American citizens. In other developments:

  • "Retaliation for Christchurch." Ruwan Wijewardene, Sri Lanka’s defence minister, said Tuesday that the attacks at churches and hotels were retaliation for the mosque massacres in Christchurch, New Zealand last month, the Guardian reports. Analysts, however, say preparations for the attacks probably began months before the Christchurch mass shooting.

  • British man's family wiped out. Eight British citizens were killed in the attacks, including the wife and two children of Singapore resident Ben Nicholson, the BBC reports. Nicholson, who survived the bombing at the Shangri-La hotel, says he is "deeply distressed" by the loss of wife Anita, 42, daughter Annabel, 11, and son Alex, 14, but "mercifully, all three of them died instantly and with no pain or suffering."
  • Muslim leaders say warnings were ignored. Muslim leaders in Sri Lanka say security officials failed to take action when they warned them about National Thowfeek Jamaath, the group blamed for the attack, and its leader, known as Mohammed Zahran or Zahran Hashmi, the AP reports. The Muslim leaders say the extremist began posting videos online years ago saying non-Muslims should be "eliminated."
  • Government in crisis. The Sri Lankan government has been plunged into crisis by its failure to prevent the attacks after receiving warnings that suicide bombers planned to target churches, the New York Times reports. Rauff Hakeem, the minister of city planning, says it was a "colossal failure on the part of the intelligence services." The Times notes that 40 people have now been arrested in connection with the attack, indicating that security forces knew exactly where to find the militants.

  • Rivalry blamed for security lapses. Ruwan Wijewardene, the defense minister, blamed the security lapses on the rivalry between the country's president and prime minister, the Washington Post reports. "Don't take this as a joke, as long as the division between the president and the prime minister exists, you can’t solve this problem," he said Tuesday, adding that his security division knew about the advance notice of the attacks, but he did not. President Maithripala Sirisena controls the security services, and allies of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe says he was excluded from security briefings.
  • Syrian in custody. Government and military sources tell Reuters that one of the people in custody is a Syrian citizen. "The terrorist investigation division of the police arrested a Syrian national following the attacks for interrogation," one official says. The man was allegedly arrested after local suspects were interrogated.
  • Unanswered questions. The New York Times lists some unanswered questions after the attacks, including how a "small, obscure group" managed to carry out an atrocity on this scale—and why Muslims extremist targeted Catholics in a Buddhist-majority country.
(More Sri Lanka stories.)

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