The Associated Press | The Associated Press04/26/19, 22:50
Some were celebrating one of the holiest days in Christianity. Some were working at Colombo hotels. Some were sitting down to brunches of shrimp and chicken and dim sum and sticky rice pudding and tables of food that seemed to go on forever.
They were mostly Sri Lankan, but also British, American, Indian, Danish, Chinese and more. They were children. They were parents.
And suddenly, in three churches and three high-end hotels, their lives intersected with suicide bombers who, authorities say, wanted to wreak vengeance on what they see as a world of infidels.
Roughly 250 people died in six coordinated suicide bombings that ripped through Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday. The three hotels and two of the churches were in or around Colombo, the capital. One was a Protestant church in the distant seaside town of Batticaloa.
Sri Lanka has a long history of communal strife, with a 26-year civil war that pitted the majority Sinhalese against minority Tamils fighting for their own homeland. Sri Lanka’s small Christian community, though, which includes both Tamil and Sinhalese, largely avoided being drawn in directly.
But since the war ended in 2009, the country’s minority Muslim community has become an increasingly common target of bigotry, sometimes facing mobs inflamed by Buddhist nationalists. And quietly, according to authorities, the most extreme forms of Islam were taking root in a small community of Muslims, some of whom they say had links to the Islamic State group, which once controlled wide swathes of Iraq and Syria.
In the days since Easter, the pain has often seemed inconceivable: entire families wiped out, wailing mothers weeping at the tiny coffins of their children, stunned priests staring at the devastation wrought in churches where the walls are now spattered with shrapnel, blood and bits of gore.
Authorities warn the trouble may not be over, and say more attacks could be coming.