Colombo, Apr 25 (AP/UNB) — Australia's prime minister said one of the suicide bombers in the Sri Lanka Easter attacks had been in Australia years earlier.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the person had been in Australia on a student and a graduate skilled visa with a spouse and child visa as well. The individual left in early 2013.
Morrison told reporters Thursday the person's Australian link was part of an ongoing investigation and wouldn't comment further.
Separately, a British security official has confirmed one of the bombers was believed to have studied in the U.K. between 2006 and 2007. The security official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the investigation, said British intelligence was not watching Abdul Lathief Jameel Mohamed during his stay in the country. His name was first reported by Sky News.
Sri Lanka has banned drones and unmanned aircraft as authorities continue controlled detonations of suspicious items four days after a series of suicide bombing attacks killed more than 350 people in and around the capital of Colombo.
Sri Lanka's civil aviation authority said Thursday that it was taking the measure "in view of the existing security situation in the country."
Hobby drones have been used by militants in the past to carry explosives.
Iraqi forces learned that they are difficult to shoot down while driving out the Islamic State group from northern Iraq, where the extremists loaded drones with grenades or simple explosives to target their forces.
Also Thursday Sri Lankan authorities detonated a suspicious item in a garbage dump in Pugoda, about 35 kilometers (22 miles) east of Colombo.
Japan's Foreign Ministry has confirmed one Japanese national was killed and four others injured in the Easter bombings in Sri Lanka.
The body of the person who died was returned to Japan early Thursday.
Officials at Narita airport near Tokyo lowered their heads as the coffin, covered with blue tarp and a bouquet of white flowers on top, came out of the plane.
Japanese media have identified the victim as 39-year-old Kaori Takahashi. The reports say she was having breakfast with her family at the Shangri-La hotel when she was killed and that her husband and a daughter were injured in the attack.
The Foreign Ministry has not released the identities of the dead and injured.
Sri Lankan police have said at least 359 people were killed and more than 500 wounded in Sunday's bombings, which mainly targeted churches and hotels. Most of the victims were Sri Lankan but more than 30 of the dead were foreigners.
Negombo, Apr 25 (AP/UNB) — Before the undertakers could move in, Anusha Kumari wrested herself away from her sisters and flung herself on the three coffins, wailing. In an instant, she was left childless and a widow when suicide bombers attacked churches and luxury hotels in and near Sri Lanka's capital of Colombo.
The toll was highest at St. Sebastian's Church in Negombo. Of the more than 350 people killed by the suicide bombings that the government blamed on Muslim extremists, about a third of them died at the church in the seaside fishing town while attending Easter Mass.
And perhaps no one lost more relatives than 43-year-old Kumari, whose daughter, son, husband, sister-in-law and two nieces were killed.
They were buried three days later near the church on vacant land that has quickly become a cemetery for the victims.
Kumari, who was injured from the blast, left the hospital to bury her family. Afterward, she reclined in a cane chair at her home, hooked up to an IV dangling from an open window. Gauze bandages covered the bridge of her nose and her right eye. There was still shrapnel in her face.
A photo of her children was on the wall, while on the shelf were small statues of Jesus, Mary and St. Sebastian, an early Christian martyr riddled with wounds from Roman arrows.
She could see her son's drum kit on the upstairs landing, a gift from his father after doing well on exams, and a school portrait of her daughter. All day, relatives, neighbors and nuns wandered in and out of the large house, offering food, consolation and prayer.
"You won't believe it, but I had the perfect family," Kumari said. "In 24 years of marriage, my husband and I never argued. All four of us slept in the same room. Now I have lost everything."
Tears mixed with blood from her bandaged right eye.
"All these people, they have their own families. They'll go home and I'll be alone," she said.
A brother-in-law, Jude Prasad Appuhami, said his extended family, one of the oldest and most prominent in Catholic-majority Negombo, marked all the religious holidays and rituals at St. Sebastian's, a Gothic-style church patterned after Reims Cathedral in France.
On Easter, though, he wasn't in church with his 15 relatives because he had to drive a vehicle carrying a statue of Christ for a parade after Mass.
Appuhami arrived midway through the service and heard the blast from the parking lot. He rushed in and was overwhelmed by the sight of so much blood. One of his sisters-in-law, who survived, shouted for him to help their niece.
He found her with her eyes open, picked her up and rushed to the hospital, only to realize she was dead.
Appuhami's wife and 10-year-old daughter, sitting in an alcove to the left of the altar, escaped with minor injuries. His 17-year-old daughter, Rusiri, who was sitting at the front of the church because she was going to do a reading from Scripture, also survived, but she was left with nerve damage that makes eating painful.
On Wednesday, she struggled to grasp what she has seen.
"I don't know how to think of it. It's like a dream," she said.
During the funeral at the makeshift cemetery near St. Sebastian's, where mourners had to pass through security checks, a military drone buzzed overhead as the Rev. Niroshan Perera led prayers for the dead.
Perera, who grew up with Kumari's husband, Dulip Appuhami, and his siblings, recalled going as a boy with his friends and family to the church's well, where the faithful believed the water could cure them of diseases.
When the funeral ended, Perera encouraged everyone to go home quickly, fearing another attack.
Perera, who lost 16 relatives and friends in the blast, said he no longer trusted the Sri Lankan government to protect his flock.
Dhaka, April 24 (UNB) –The three-day second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation (BRF) begins in Beijing on Thursday.
Industries Minister Nurul Majid Mahmud Humayun left here for Beijing on Wednesday to attend the BRF, said an official.
Under the Belt and Road Initiative framework, China wants to share its development experiences with other countries and improve connectivity between Asia and Europe and Africa.
Ahead of the second BRF, Prime Minister’s International Affairs Adviser Gowher Rizvi on Saturday said Bangladesh welcomed China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) as it fits Bangladesh’s national priorities.
“Bangladesh is proud to be part of this initiative,” he said while addressing the launching ceremony of the first magazine in Bangladesh, “The Belt and Road” exclusively covering the highlights of the vision of “The Belt and Road Initiative.”
The BRI is a multi-billion-dollar initiative launched by Chinese President Xi Jinping. This mega initiative emerged when President Xi came to power in 2013.
During Xi’s historic visit to Dhaka in 2016, Bangladesh formally joined the ‘Belt and Road Initiative’, a drive which has already drawn the close attention of the world.
Chinese President Xi Jinping will deliver a keynote speech at BRF, State Councilor and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said.
Leaders, including heads of state and government from 37 countries, will attend the forum's roundtable summit, according to Xinhua.
China's Belt and Road Initiative, proposed by President Xi Jinping nearly six years ago, has made practical progress, with 125 countries and 29 international organizations having signed 173 cooperation agreements under the initiative framework as of March 27, according to China Daily.
Under the initiative's five cooperation priorities of policy coordination, facilities connectivity, unimpeded trade, financial integration and people-to-people bond, there are a batch of projects, such as transportation construction and industrial infrastructure, in full swing or already having yielded fruitful results, the Chinese daily reported.
Some 12 thematic forums and a CEO conference would be held on Thursday, the opening ceremony and a high-level meeting on Friday and the leaders' roundtable on Saturday.
Xi will also chair the leaders' roundtable and brief media from home and abroad about the outcomes after the roundtable, Wang said, adding that Xi and his wife Peng Liyuan will also hold a welcoming banquet for the leaders and representatives.
According to Wang, the 37 countries are Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Brunei, Cambodia, Chile, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Djibouti, Egypt, Ethiopia, Greece, Hungary, Indonesia, Italy, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Malaysia, Mongolia, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Portugal, Russia, Serbia, Singapore, Switzerland, Tajikistan, Thailand, the United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan and Vietnam.
The secretary-general of the United Nations and the managing director of the International Monetary Fund will attend the forum, Wang said, adding that senior representatives of France, Germany, Britain, Spain, Japan, the Republic of Korea and the European Union will also participate.
Noting that the BRF is the top-level platform for international cooperation under the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative, Wang said the conference next week would be of landmark significance.
The theme of the second BRF is "Belt and Road Cooperation, Shaping a Brighter Shared Future." Wang said the main purpose is to promote the high-quality development of Belt and Road cooperation, which is the common aspiration of countries participating in the initiative.
Speaking highly of the fruitful results yielded since the initiative was launched in 2013, Wang said the second BRF was greatly welcomed worldwide with some 5,000 participants from more than 150 countries and 90 international organisations having confirmed their attendance, covering areas from five continents and different walks of life such as government, civil society, business and academia.
According to Wang, this year's forum will have 12 thematic forums, twice of that during the first forum in 2017, and the CEO conference will be held for the first time.
The Belt and Road Initiative, proposed by Xi in 2013, aims to enhance all-around connectivity through infrastructure construction, explore new driving force for the world economic growth, and build a new platform for world economic cooperation, according to Wang.
Stressing that Xi and leaders from other countries blueprinted the initiative in 2017, Wang said the progress in the past two years shows that the initiative conforms to the trend of the times featuring peace, development, cooperation and win-win and accords with the common aspiration of openness and joint development of all countries.
"As the host country, we’ll maintain close communication and coordination with all parties to prepare for the forum with openness, inclusiveness and transparency, upholding the principle of consultation and cooperation for shared benefits," Wang said.
He said the forum would voice the firm support for multilateralism and an open world economy, enrich the principles of cooperation of the Belt and Road Initiative, build a network of partnership, and establish more mechanisms for high-quality development.
Bilateral, trilateral and multilateral cooperation has been reinforcing each other under the initiative, laying a solid foundation for a closer and more wide-ranging partnership, he said.
Wang said China will showcase the outcomes and introduce the measures of its reform and opening-up to the world, adding that this will allow China to share the dividends of its economic growth, promote the Belt and Road Initiative, and bring more opportunities to the development of all countries as well as the building of the Belt and Road.
"I believe that the forum will inject stronger impetus into the world economy, open even broader horizon for the development of the countries, and contribute to the building of a community with a shared future for humanity, " said Wang.
Colombo, Apr 24 (AP/UNB) — Sri Lanka's president has asked for the resignations of the defense secretary and the national police chief after security forces failed to act on warnings before Easter suicide bombings that killed over 350 people.
President Maithripala Sirisena's office announced that he asked for the resignations Wednesday.
It wasn't immediately clear who would replace them.
Sirisena said during a televised speech on Tuesday that he planned to change the head of the defense forces within 24 hours.
The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for Sunday's attack, which struck churches and hotels in the island nation. A Sri Lankan official has blamed breakaway members of two obscure local extremist Muslim groups.
Sri Lanka's Muslim civil society movements and associations have called upon authorities to immediately arrest and punish the perpetrators of Sunday Easter bombings that killed more than 350 people, saying extremism in the name of Islam does not represent the religion.
A joint statement says authorities should also apprehend those who aided and abetted the attackers through incitement, financing and other support.
It says neither the National Thawheed Jamaath nor those who carried out the attacks represent Islam or reflect Muslim beliefs. The statement says they have misused and abused Islam in order to fit their own radical and anti-Islamic agenda, and are criminals.
The signatories include All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama, the Muslim Council, Jama'athe Islami, the Memon Association of Sri Lanka and Anjuman-E Saifi.
The U.S. ambassador says America had "no prior knowledge" of a threat in Sri Lanka before the Easter bombings that killed more than 350 people.
Ambassador Alaina Teplitz made the remarks Wednesday to foreign journalists at the U.S. Embassy in Colombo.
Teplitz said there was a "right-sized" team of FBI agents and U.S. military officials assisting Sri Lanka in the investigation.
Teplitz also said "clearly there was some failure in the system" for Sri Lanka prior to Easter bombings.
Sri Lanka's government has acknowledged it received warnings of a local extremist group threatening churches and the prime minister said some people might lose their job over the intelligence failures.
New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says she hasn't received any official advice from Sri Lanka or seen any intelligence reports to corroborate claims from Sri Lanka's government that the Easter attacks were in retaliation for the mosque massacres in Christchurch last month.
Ardern told reporters in Auckland that Sri Lanka is in the early stages of its investigation, and that New Zealand plans to stand back and allow it to proceed. She said she hadn't been in direct contact with Sri Lanka, although officials from the two countries were in contact.
Sri Lanka's State Minister of Defense Ruwan Wijewardene said earlier the government had evidence the bombings were carried out by an Islamic fundamentalist group in retaliation for the March 15 mosque shootings in Christchurch that killed 50 people.
The U.S. Embassy in Sri Lanka says the FBI is on the ground in the country to help assist its investigation into the Easter suicide bombings that killed 359 people.
The embassy said it was part of the support extended by President Trump.
The embassy in Colombo declined to immediately elaborate.
Police say the death toll in the Easter attacks in Sri Lanka has risen to 359 and more suspects have been arrested.
Police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekara also said Wednesday morning that 18 suspects were arrested overnight, raising the total detained to 58.
The prime minister warned on Tuesday that several suspects armed with explosives were still at large.
Another top government official said the suicide bombings at the churches, hotels and other sites were carried out by Islamic fundamentalists in apparent retaliation for the New Zealand mosque massacre last month.
The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the Sri Lanka attacks and released images that purported to show the attackers. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said that investigators were still determining the extent of the bombers' foreign links.
Colombo, Apr 24 (AP/UNB) — The dark wooden coffins, sitting side by side, attested to one family's unspeakable grief.
The Gomez family gathered Tuesday to say a final farewell to five loved ones — a son, a daughter-in-law and three young grandsons — brutally killed as they attended Easter Sunday Mass at Colombo's St. Joseph's Shrine.
"All family, all generation, is lost," said Joseph Gomez, the family patriarch, as tears welled in his eyes. Dozens of family members and neighbors were gathered in his simple home, where the sound of hymns sung by mourners gently wafted in the background and candles flickered beside three coffins. The bodies of two grandsons have yet to be recovered.
Across Sri Lanka, Tuesday was a national day of mourning as families began to lay to rest the more than 320 victims of the bomb blasts that struck a half-dozen churches and hotels in the island nation.
For the Gomez family, the loss was unfathomable: A 33-year-old son, Berlington Joseph, the young man's 31-year-old wife Chandrika Arumugam, and their three boys, 9-year-old Bevon, 6-year-old Clavon and baby Avon, who would have turned 1 next week. A funeral card with a photo of the family clutched in his hands, the elder Gomez wailed: "I can't bear this on me, I can't bear this."
"My eldest son, my eldest son," he sobbed as he laid bouquets of red roses and brightly colored daisies on the largest coffin. Next to it was a tiny coffin, a photo of little Avon tucked into a wooden frame nearby.
The coffins, draped with long white tassels, were then carried to a Colombo cemetery and lowered into side-by-side graves.
At St. Joseph's Shrine, dozens of mourners gathered outside, lighting candles and praying in unison for the victims of Sunday's blasts as heavily armed soldiers stood guard.
At St. Sebastian Church in Negombo, a funeral service was held Tuesday for victims killed there as they worshipped, led by Cardinal Malcom Ranjith. The church was heavily guarded by hundreds of army, air force and police troops, and soldiers were deployed every 15 feet along the streets of the city some 20 miles north of Colombo.
Throughout the country, people observed a three-minute silence for the victims of the near-simultaneous attacks at three churches and three luxury hotels, and three other related blasts, the deadliest violence to strike Sri Lanka in a decade.
The Sri Lankan government has blamed the attack on National Towheed Jamaar, a little-known local Islamic extremist group, and on Tuesday, the Islamic State group also claimed responsibility, though it provided no proof it was involved and has made unsubstantiated claims in the past.