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News18 Daybreak | Bombs Tear Through Sri Lankan Churches, Hotels on Easter Killing Over 250 and Other Stories You Need to Watch Out For

News18 Daybreak | Bombs Tear Through Sri Lankan Churches, Hotels on Easter Killing Over 250 and Other Stories You Need to Watch Out For

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Sri Lanka rocked by 8 explosions on Easter Sunday; PM Wickremesinghe says govt had prior intel

The island nation of Sri Lanka was left reeling on Sunday morning from a series of terrorist attacks which ripped through eight locations in the country, leaving over 250 people dead and more than 450 injured.

Three Indian nationals were also confirmed to be among those killed in the blasts, which took place in four luxury hotels and three churches. The churches in particular saw a massive number of casualties as throngs of people had gathered for the Easter Day Mass.

Police have arrested 13 suspects so far in connection with the attacks and even seized a van, which they believe was used by the perpetrators.

Decade’s worst: Reports on Sunday described the attacks as the deadliest violence that Sri Lanka had seen since the bloody civil war a decade ago.

The first wave of blasts took place between 8.30 am and 9.05 am, with near simultaneous explosions hitting six locations, which included the Cinnamon Grand and Shagri La hotels in the capital city of Colombo.

During that time, blasts also took place at Colombo's historic St Anthony's Shrine, the St Sebastian's church in the town of Negombo — north of the capital — and the Zion Church in the east-coast town of Batticaloa.

Hours later, there were two more blasts — one of them at another Colombo hotel named Kingsbury. Sri Lankan government confirmed that most of the attacks were suicide bombings​.

Police said 35 foreigners were among the dead, including British, Dutch, Portuguese, Chinese and American citizens, with the US and Britain later confirming their nationals were killed. Nine foreign nationals are still said to be missing.

Sri Lanka blocked several social media networks in the wake of terrorist attacks on Sunday, including Facebook and the messaging service WhatsApp.“This was a unilateral decision,” said Harindra Dassanayake, a presidential adviser in Sri Lanka. Officials blocked the platforms, he said, out of fear that misinformation about the attacks and hate speech could spread, provoking more violence.

Meanwhile, India’s Ministry of External affairs confirmed the deaths of three Indians bearing the names Lakshmi, Narayan Chandrashekhar and Ramesh.

Who dunnit: While authorities are yet to confirm the names of the perpetrators, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe revealed that the government had prior intel about the attacks but had failed to take adequate steps to prevent it.

According to top intelligence sources, Zahran Hasim of National Thowheed Jama'ath of Sri Lanka and his associates had hatched a plan to carry out a suicide attack on or before April 22. Sri Lanka's police chief Pujuth Jayasundara had also sounded a nationwide alert 10 days before Sunday's attacks but preventive measures weren’t taken.

India is also said to have given specific intel to Sri Lanka about the possibility of an attack.

So far, of the 13 people arrested in connection with the attacks, 10 suspects have been handed over to the CID. President Maithripala Sirisena has also appointed a Special Investigation Committee to look into the background and causes of the attack.

Condoling lost lives: Condolences poured in from all corners of the world in the wake of the ghastly attacks. Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted saying that “there is no place for such barbarism in our region”. The PM reiterated these words in a telephonic conversation with his counterpart Ranil Wickremesinghe and President Sirisena.

Political leaders like Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, Mamata Banerjee and K Chandrashekar Rao also denounced the attacks in separate Twitter posts.

Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump’s unforgivable gaffe drew the ire of many as he misquoted the number of casualties in a tweet hours after the attacks.

What You May Have Missed

Sexual harrassment charges leveled against CJI Ranjan Gogoi by former junior assistant

In a first ever in the history of the top court, sexual harassment charges were leveled against the Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi by a 35-year-old woman, who used to work as a junior assistant at the Supreme Court. According to the four media houses that first reported the news, the woman on Friday wrote to 22 judges of the court alleging that Gogoi had made sexual advances on her at his residence last year. “He hugged me around the waist, and touched me all over my body with his arms and by pressing his body against mine, and did not let go,” the woman’s affidavit states. The online portals go onto say that the woman had been dismissed on flimsy grounds after she had rebuffed the CJI’s advances and even the jobs of her husband and brother-in-law’s jobs had been affected as a consequence. The woman is also facing charges of bribery that, according to the online portals, were leveled following the series of incidences.

Ranjan Gogoi, however, denied the charges against him, and described the complaint as a bigger plot aimed at attacking the office of the CJI and independence of the judiciary. In an “extraordinary” sitting of the top court convened after the reports emerged, Gogoi said “This is unbelievable. I should not stoop low even in denying it.” The CJI also made it clear that he was not going to be a part of the committee that will examine the charges against him.

Apoorva Shukla, wife of ND Tiwari's son Rohit Shekhar, detained for 'hatching a conspiracy'

Rohit Shekhar Tiwari's wife, Apoorva Shukla, was detained on Sunday along with two domestic helpers in connection with the death of ND Tiwari's son. According to sources, the deceased Rohit Shekhar's wife could be involved in hatching a conspiracy that lead to her husband’s death and police are looking at her as a prime suspect. Crime Branch officials on Saturday, questioned Shukla for over eight hours about her involvement in the case. The autopsy report by a medical board comprising AIIMS doctors had earlier confirmed the cause of death to be a homicide. Late ND Tiwari's wife had two days ago also said that her son and Shukla "did not share a cordial relationship".

News18 Election Tracker: Pragya Thakur gets two notices, another BJP stalwart benched and Hardeep Puri replaces Arun Jaitley as Amritsar candidate

EC serves two notices to Pragya Thakur over Hemant Karkare and Babri Masjid remark

The Election Commission has served two notices to BJP’s Bhopal candidate, Sadhvi Pragya Thakur, who managed to rake up quite the storm since joining the party last week. The first show-cause notice was issued over her comments about that the death of the former Anti-Terrorist Squad chief Hemant Karkare in the 26/11 terror attacks. Thakur, who accused Karkare for torturing her during her time in custody over the Malegaon blast case, said that he had died because she had cursed him. In her reply to the first notice, she said that her comments hadn’t been defamatory. “It's my right to put before the public what had happened to me,” she said. Then on Saturday, Thakur courted another controversy when she said that she had ‘wiped off the blot from the country’ by demolishing the Babri mosque. She was later served another notice by the Election Commission.

After Advani and Joshi, curtains down on Sumitra Mahajan as BJP Names Shankar Lalwani as its Indore Candidate

Following weeks of suspense and speculation, Bharatiya Janata Party on Sunday drew the curtains on Lok Sabha speaker Sumitra Mahajan’s parliamentary career as it decided to field Shankar Lalwani from the Indore seat. Interestingly, Lalwani is a Mahajan loyalist. Mahajan, who is fondly known as Tai, had withdrawn her candidature voluntarily after BJP lists had failed to name her. The party, however, took a while to zero-in on Lalwani, a former Indore Development Authority chairman. In fact, Mahajan is said to have pitched Lalwani’s name despite several voices of dissent against him. Others within the saffron party had been been pushing for the candidature of Kailash Vijayvargiya and his close aide Ramesh Mendola, an MLA from the city. The Lok Sabha speaker then called upon the party’s top brass in Delhi over the choice of its Indore candidate following which Lalwani was chosen.

After Jaitley debacle in 2014, BJP banks on diplomat-turned-politician Hardeep Puri in Amritsar

After witnessing the embarrassing defeat of its high-profile candidate Arun Jaitley in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Sunday announced the name of Union Minister Hardeep Puri from the Amritsar seat for the May 19 parliamentary election. Puri, a former diplomat and Rajya Sabha member from Uttar Pradesh, "humbly" accepted the opportunity in a Twitter post. He will be facing sitting Congress MP Gurjeet Singh Aujla for the seat. The 2014 elections in Amristrar has been a big blotch on BJP’s record as its high-profile minister Arun Jaitley had conceded the seat to Congress’ Amarinder Singh by a margin of over one lakh votes.

On Reel

Eight serial blasts rocked the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo on Sunday morning. Here are a few highlights of what we know.