The Easter Sunday carnage in Sri Lanka has revived painful memories of the long-drawn out Tamil campaign of suicide bombings that was crushed a decade ago.
According to reports from Colombo, several Catholic Churches as well as hotels popular with foreign tourists were targeted leaving about 300 dead and more than 500 injured so far.
Given the scale of carnage resulting from the devastating bomb attacks, a government spokesman said the attackers had links to foreign networks.
Both the Israeli Mossad as well ISIS terrorists have been mentioned as possible suspects in various unofficial reports.
There were at least seven suicide bombers involved according to investigators, as well as truck bombs.
The government imposed a state of emergency that gives vast powers to the police to arrest suspects without a court order. A night curfew was also imposed going into effect at 8pm (local time).
The police had received a tip-off on April 11 from a foreign intelligence service of a possible attack on churches.
It was not immediately clear what action, if any, was taken on the tip-off.
Police said 24 people had been arrested, all of whom were Sri Lankan, but they gave no further details.
Cabinet spokesman Rajitha Senaratne said an international network was involved.
“We do not believe these attacks were carried out by a group of people who were confined to this country,” Senaratne said.
“There was an international network without which these attacks could not have succeeded.”
Why the bombings were carried out was also not immediately clear.
President Maithripala Sirisena said his government would seek foreign assistance to track the overseas links.
The hotels targeted included the Cinnamon Grand, Shangri-La, Kingsbury and Tropical Inn ─ all in Colombo.
The bombings occurred when guests were having breakfast. Eyewitnesses reported people lying on the hotel floor bleeding. Some lay motionless, perhaps dead.
Among churches, there was one in Colombo (St Anthony’s Shrine), one in Negombo (St Sebastian’s Church) and another one in Batticaloa (Zeon Church) that were targeted.
The death toll was so high because worshippers were at church for Sunday mass. Easter Sunday is one of the holiest days in Christianity.
Christians believe that the Prophet Jesus (as) rose from the death and went to heaven on this day.
Sri Lanka is a multi-ethnic and multi-religious country with Christians making up 7 percent of the total population that is predominantly Buddhist (70%).
The predominant population is Sinhala (Buddhist) while Tamils who are mainly Hindus but also some Christians among them make up 10% of the population.
For three decades the Tamils that reside mostly in the north of the island state, led a bombing campaign to secure a separate homeland.
The Tamil campaign was finally crushed in 2009 and Sri Lanka finally witnessed some peace. The latest bombings have revived fears of the bad old days.