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Sri Lankans remember Easter bomb victims at home amid virus

More than 260 people were killed in the attacks during Easter celebrations on April 21 last year.

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A Sri Lankan police officer stands guard outside St Anthony’s church, one of the sites of the 2019 Easter Sunday attacks (Eranga Jayawardena/AP)

A Sri Lankan police officer stands guard outside St Anthony’s church, one of the sites of the 2019 Easter Sunday attacks (Eranga Jayawardena/AP)

A Sri Lankan police officer stands guard outside St Anthony’s church, one of the sites of the 2019 Easter Sunday attacks (Eranga Jayawardena/AP)

Sri Lankans commemorated the anniversary of last year’s Easter Sunday bomb attacks mainly from their homes on Tuesday amid the coronavirus pandemic.

More than 260 people were killed when three churches came under simultaneous suicide bomb attacks during Easter celebrations on April 21 2019.

Three tourist hotels were also targeted, killing 42 foreigners from 14 countries.

Public memorials organised to mark the anniversary were cancelled amid a rise in coronavirus patients.

Instead, church pastors were asked to ring bells and two minutes of silence were observed at 8.45am, the time of the bombings.

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People pray outside St Anthony’s church on the first anniversary of the deadly bombings (Eranga Jayawardena/AP)

People pray outside St Anthony’s church on the first anniversary of the deadly bombings (Eranga Jayawardena/AP)

AP/PA Images

People pray outside St Anthony’s church on the first anniversary of the deadly bombings (Eranga Jayawardena/AP)

Investigators concluded that two Muslim groups inspired by the so-called Islamic State group were responsible for the attacks.

The government of then-President Maithripala Sirisena was blamed for ignoring near-specific intelligence received before the bombings.

“We are grateful to those friendly nations that generously shared the intelligence information prior to the attack on several occasions, which our political leaders unfortunately did not take seriously,” said Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, the archbishop of Colombo, Sri Lanka’s capital.

“We honour specially all those who lost their lives, those who were seriously injured and all those who lost loved ones,” he said.

The UN office in Sri Lanka stressed the need to relentlessly fight terrorism.

“Terrorism should not be associated with any religion, ethnicity or race,” it said in a statement.

“The purpose of terrorism is to inoculate societies with the virus of fear. Fear of the other, fear of differences, fear of dissenting opinions or different accents or clothing.”

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Priests stand at the entrance of St Anthony’s church, one of the sites of the 2019 Easter Sunday attacks (Eranga Jayawardena/AP)

Priests stand at the entrance of St Anthony’s church, one of the sites of the 2019 Easter Sunday attacks (Eranga Jayawardena/AP)

AP/PA Images

Priests stand at the entrance of St Anthony’s church, one of the sites of the 2019 Easter Sunday attacks (Eranga Jayawardena/AP)

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement that “we stand in solidarity with the survivors of this brutality, and pray for their healing”.

The police chief and the secretary to the defence ministry at the time of the attacks are facing legal action over their alleged negligence.

More than 100 suspects with alleged links to the masterminds of the attacks have been detained by police.

Police earlier this month arrested the brother of a former Cabinet minister and a lawyer for alleged links to the suicide bombers.

The government partially lifted a month-long curfew on Monday, with the top health official declaring that the coronavirus is “under control”.

The Indian Ocean island nation had been under a 24-hour curfew since March 20.

The curfew will remain in effect from 8pm until 5am until further notice. Sri Lanka has 310 confirmed cases of the virus, including seven deaths.

PA Media