'Complete Chaos': Attacks Devastate Sri Lanka, Leave More Than 200 Dead
LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
At least 200 people have been killed and hundreds more wounded in eight blasts across Sri Lanka. The coordinated bombings targeted luxury hotels and churches in the country. Joining us now to discuss the latest news is journalist Lisa Fuller, who joins us from Colombo. Lisa, what have you seen there on the ground?
LISA FULLER: During the day today, it was complete chaos - Colombo. This was not something that anybody was expecting. Sri Lanka hasn't seen this level of violence since its civil war ended 10 years ago. And even then, something like this has never happened in Colombo. So I think people just were completely shocked - just with no warning for this type of incident.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Have you been able to speak to any of the victims? What have they been telling you?
FULLER: They have been telling me that they don't know what happened. The blast seemed to go off in the restaurant of the hotels. So it was while people were having breakfast in the morning - so mostly tourists. And then they said all of a sudden, they woke up in the hospital. And that was really all they could remember. There was another bombing in Batticaloa in eastern Sri Lanka. And I talked to a nurse who was right outside the church when it was blasted. And she said there were children who were right near the bomber. And so there were children getting thrown out of the church when the bomb blast went off.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Of course, it's Easter Sunday. And I understand no group has taken responsibility for the attacks. But Sri Lanka's defense minister has said that the culprits were religious extremists. What does that mean? Do you know?
FULLER: So, I mean, throughout the day, there's been a lot of speculation and a lot of news that ended up being false. It was from a letter that had been forged. So, I mean, the most recent information that I have is that they were Sri Lankan. They were from one group. But I have not been provided with any more information from the government other than that.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Seven people have been arrested so far. Can you give us some background...
GARCIA-NAVARRO: ...On Sri Lanka? You know, there was a long civil war there, which ended in 2009. What is the context for this?
FULLER: Yeah. The war ended 10 years ago. And that was between a separatist group called the Tamil Tigers and the - so Tamils are a ethnic minority. And the majority Buddhist Sinhalese population that dominates the government fought against that. There is also a Muslim minority in the country. And since the war ended, Muslims have faced a lot of discrimination in the country.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: And there is, of course, a Christian minority, which was targeted in these attacks - at least partially - with the church. And their reaction to this? I mean, any ideas about why they were in the crosshairs?
FULLER: Yeah. The Christian (unintelligible) are both Tamil Sinhala. And there's actually a lot of talk about discrimination against Christians in the last week because there was an incident in a town called Anuradhapura, where sort of a gang threw stones at the church while they were trying to hold services. And we've seen a lot of those types of incidents consistently throughout the last 20 years but just very low, low levels of violence, like assaults on one person. Those attacks have been mainly carried out by Buddhists - they're extremists sort of from the same groups - but have sponsored the attacks against the Muslims.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: A very terrible day in Sri Lanka. Journalist Lisa Fuller in Colombo, thank you very much.
FULLER: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.