“Officials from the police to the prime minister say militants remain on the loose and have access to explosives. That has led to increased security at shrines, churches, temples and mosques across the multiethnic country of 21 million off the southern coast of India.”
(Krishan Francis Colombo and & Rod McGuirk – AP) Catholic leaders canceled Sunday Masses indefinitely across Sri Lanka and officials urged Muslims to stay home for Friday prayers in an extraordinary call by the clergy to curtail worship as fear of more attacks plagued the island nation after the deadly suicide bombings on Easter.
Shops were closed, streets were empty and heavy security patrols continued across the country despite police saying the alleged mastermind of the attacks that killed over 250 people had died in one of the suicide blasts.
Those Sri Lankans who did venture out spoke about the fear encompassing daily life at a level unseen since a long civil war ended a decade ago. Many are angry that the government, paralyzed by internal disputes, hadn’t acted on intelligence obtained weeks before Easter that warned of the attacks.
On Friday night, Sri Lanka’s military said its soldiers in the eastern part of the country engaged in a gunbattle with suspects believed to be linked to the attacks, and police announced a 24-hour curfew until further notice in the Muslim-dominated area where the shooting took place.
Continuing government confusion in its investigation — from drastically lowering the death toll to misidentifying a Brown University student as a militant — only added to the public’s worries.