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Tamils in London fear family and friends among dead in Sri Lanka

Prayer meetings held last night at Tamil churches in Tooting and Southall to take stock of the bombings

TAMILS in London are struggling to come to terms with the bombings in Sri Lanka amid fears that their families and friends could be among the hundreds of casualties.

Prayer meetings were held last night at Tamil churches in Tooting and Southall for congregations to take stock of the atrocities.

Father Elmo Jeyarasa, a Sri Lankan Tamil chaplain in London, told the Morning Star he was “shocked” by the blasts which had not been seen since the island’s civil war ended in 2009.

“As our people started to live without the noise of the bombings and shootings, these incidents are again going to force our people to live in fear and agony,” he said.

“As a Sri Lankan Christian community, we are praying earnestly to our Risen Lord that the persons behind these attacks may find peace and love in their hearts and respect human dignity which reflects in God’s image.”

People of many different faiths and nationalities have been affected by the atrocities, but the choice of the targets means that the island’s Tamil minority will have been disproportionately affected.

The services at Zion Church in Batticaloa and St Anthony’s in Colombo were being given in Tamil language at the time of the blasts, a local reporter told the Morning Star.

Eight British citizens are known to have died in the explosions that ripped through hotels and churches in the capital Colombo and elsewhere on the island.

Many of the dead remain unidentified and may have relatives who live in Britain, which is home to more than 100,000 Tamils. 

The Tamil Information Centre (TIC) in London issued a statement saying the attacks had caused “immense human suffering.”

A TIC spokesperson said: “We are deeply disturbed by this series of brutal attacks against civilians, places of worship and other public places in Sri Lanka. 

“We share the pain of the people who have become victims of atrocious acts and their families. 

“All our prayers are with the victims of these terrible attacks and their families.

“Our thoughts are with all the people affected and those involved in the emergency response.”

The TIC called on the Sri Lankan government to take “immediate and concrete steps” to apprehend the perpetrators but said the measures should be done in an “effective and just manner.”

The group also urged “all communities to work together to create an environment where all may live freely in accordance with their faith or beliefs.”

A new blast hit a church in Colombo this morning while officials attempted to defuse a parcel inside of a van.

Police later confirmed that the vehicle had been used by the attackers behind yesterday’s massacre.

Another 87 bomb detonators were discovered near the capital city’s main bus station.

The country remains on high alert after the bombings that hit eight places across the country and has imposed a “conditional state of emergency.”

At least 290 people were killed in the attacks, with some 500 others left wounded.

Sri Lankan Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne announced today that the government will pay one million rupees (about £4,410) to each victim and about £440 for the cost of funeral processions.

No-one has admitted to having carried out the attacks but Mr Senaratne claimed they were organised by a local jihadist group called National Thowheed Jamath with the help of an international network “without which these attacks could not have succeeded.”

Authorities received warnings about a possible attack two weeks ahead but Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said he was not informed and no actions were taken.

Cabinet Minister Harin Fernando said he circulated an internal security memo earlier this month, warning that the group was “getting ready for suicide attacks on popular Catholic churches and the Indian High Commission.”

The memo also said the group’s members were “inciting hatred” among online followers.

“Serious action needs to be taken as to why this warning was ignored,” Mr Fernando added.

Police have arrested 29 people in a series of raids. President Maithripala Sirisena said he will ask for foreign assistance to find the international links.

Muslim Council of Sri Lanka vice-president Hilmy Ahamed said he warned military intelligence officials about the group and its leaders about three years ago, personally providing documents with names and details of group members.

“They have sat on it, that’s the tragedy,” he added.

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