Cardinal urges extra security for Sri Lanka's religious places

Cardinal Ranjith has written to president over concerns that churches may be attacked again
Cardinal urges extra security for Sri Lanka's religious places

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby (center) and Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith (right) pay homage to the Easter Sunday bomb victims next to a blood-splattered statue of Jesus Christ at St. Sebastian's Church in Negombo on Aug. 29. (AFP photo)

Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith has written a letter to Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena appealing for extra security for Catholic institutions.

It follows concerns that churches may face more attacks after the Easter Sunday suicide bombings of three churches and three hotels that killed 259 people and injured more than 500.

A senior Catholic priest said the easing of security at religious places was not a positive move and that the local Church had received information about impending threats.

He said Cardinal Ranjith had informed the president in writing that Catholic temples, shrines and public places are in danger of being attacked.

Yasitha Devaka, a Catholic teacher from Kadana, said government officials had blamed each other for the loss. It was finally revealed that intelligence agencies had provided definite warnings of the April 21 attacks but no proper action was taken to prevent them.

"The cardinal has warned of another attack on Catholic churches and has asked for tight security," said Devaka.

"People should cooperate by providing information about suspicious persons and activities.

"Rumors have been created by political parties to gain political power because the presidential election is very near. Religious leaders should be very careful to understand their political agendas."

Sri Lankan police have arrested 293 suspects over the deadly Easter attacks.

Nine suicide bombers affiliated to local Islamist extremist group National Thowheed Jamath (NTJ) have been blamed for the atrocity.

Police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekara said hundreds of bank accounts of 41 suspects containing cash worth 134 million rupees (US$740,300) had been frozen.

Moves are underway to freeze assets worth more than 6 billion rupees belonging to suspects, said Gunasekara, adding that 178 suspects are being questioned on detention orders and 115 have been remanded.

A senior police officer told media that they have sent a message to all police officers warning them that there is a threat of an extremist attack.

Cardinal Ranjith last week urged political party supporters to refrain from using his name and photographs for their election campaigns on social media.

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