The ongoing hunt for terrorist suspects in Sri Lanka, and fears of reprisal attacks, have cast a shadow over the country still reeling from the devastation of the Easter Sunday bombings.
Sri Lankans of different faiths were being urged to pray privately amid fears of further attacks Friday, as the country’s prime minister told CNN that security forces were also working to pick up any terrorist “sleepers” — who could activate to initiate another round of attacks.
As Sri Lanka enters its first weekend of religious services following Sunday’s mass bombings, Catholic services across Colombo have been suspended and the government urged Muslims not to gather publicly for the Friday prayer service known as the Jum’ah prayer.
Driving through Colombo, a CNN reporter observed that shops that would normally be open at midday had been shuttered, and noted that security warnings broadcast on television and radio had spread fear.
According to a revised death toll, 253 people, including many worshipers attending Easter Mass services, died in the coordinated attacks.Ahead of Friday’s dawn prayers, Sri Lanka’s Minister of Postal Services & Muslim Religious Affairs Mohamed Hashim Abdul issued a statement labeled “very urgent” on Thursday asking Muslims not to gather publicly for the congregational Jum’ah prayer.
The minister’s statement called for prayers to end the actions of the “inhuman terrorist murderers,” and offers condolences to the victims targeted in churches and luxury hotels, saying that the Muslim community “stand(s) with Christian brothers and sisters during their times of grief.”
However, some mosques defied the call, opening for the midday prayers.
Catholic services across Colombo have also been suspended — until April 29 — because of security concerns, according to Fr. Edmond Tillekeratne, media director of the Archdiocese.
The decision, which will see Catholic churches in the capital shuttered for services this Sunday, was made at the direction of Archbishop of Colombo, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith.
Both Christianity and Islam are minority religions in Sri Lanka, each accounting for under 10% of the total population. According to census data, the vast majority of Sri Lankans identify as Buddhist.