After more than 300 people were killed in a series of bombings in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe announced authorities have arrested or killed the majority of those connected to the attacks.
The attacks, which targeted three churches and four hotels in the country’s capital, left hundreds dead and at least 500 more wounded on April 21, marking the deadliest attack the country has seen since their civil war ended 10 years ago.
The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attacks, leading Sri Lankan authorities to search for 70 individuals who are believed to have connections to the terrorist organization. No evidence has been found that confirms the group’s responsibility.
Wickremesinghe called for the immediate ending of “jihad terrorism” and thanked the local Muslim community for assisting authorities with identifying potentially dangerous individuals.
“There are several foreigners working as teachers in our country without work visas,” Wickremesinghe said. “In consultation with the Muslim religious affairs ministry and the home ministry, we will expel them from the country.”
Six days after the attacks, on April 27, Sri Lankan authorities engaged in a firefight with a group of suspects in the southern city of Batticaloa. 15 people including six children were killed. It is believed three of the 15 were directly involved in attacks.
Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, Archbishop of Colombo and the senior Catholic official in Sri Lanka, called for no public church services to be held until the police could guarantee the safety of church-goers.
A private service, available to only priests and nuns, was held inside St. Sebastian’s Church on April 28. The service was guarded by Sri Lankan navy and police outside the church gates.
Ranjith also delivered a televised, private mass service in a small chapel in Colombo. Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena, Prime Minister Wickremesinghe and opposition leader Mahinda Rajapaska all attended the private mass in a “rare show of unity,” according to The Guardian.
“This is a time our hearts are tested by the great destruction that took place last Sunday,” Ranjith said during his private mass. “This is a time questions such as ‘does God truly love us,’ ‘does He have compassion toward us,’ can arise in human hearts.”
President Sirisena announced that a ban on burqas went into effect on April 29. He called the garment worn by some Muslim women “a security risk and a flag of fundamentalism.”
“President Maithripala Sirisena took this decision to further support the ongoing security and help the armed forces to easily identify the identity of any unwanted perpetrators,” a press release from the president’s office stated.