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At least 207 people die in 8 Easter Sunday blasts in Sri Lanka: Daily Mail

The buffet bomber: Terrorist waited in line for breakfast at five star hotel and then blew himself at the front in attacks that have killed 35 foreigners including Britons and Americans

ONE OF the Sri Lanka terrorist bombers checked into a five-star hotel, waited in a queue for a breakfast buffet and then blew himself up, it has emerged.

A manager at the Cinnamon Grand hotel in Colombo said the attacker had set off the horrific explosion in a packed restaurant at 8.30 a.m. The bomber had checked in under a false address, claiming he was in the city on business, before unleashing terror on one of the hotel’s busiest days of the year.

At least 207 people have died in the eight Easter Sunday blasts, including Brits, Americans and Dutch nationals. The bombings targeted hotels such as the Cinnamon Grand which are popular with foreign visitors, as well as St. Anthony’s Shrine in Colombo, also frequented by tourists.  Other blasts were reported at St. Sebastian’s Church in Negombo, a majority-Catholic town, and at Zion Church in the eastern town of Batticalo.

Describing the Cinnamon Grand bombing, the manager said the attacker had registered the night before as Mohamed Azzam Mohamed. The bomber was just about to be served when he set off the explosives which were strapped to his back, killing himself and numerous guests.

The manager said: ‘There was utter chaos. It was 8.30 am and it was busy. It was families. ‘He came up to the top of the queue and set off the blast. One of our managers who was welcoming guests was among those killed instantly.’

Millions of tourists visit Sri Lanka every year but political crisis and religious tension have placed the industry under threat in recent months. More than 2.4 million foreign holidaymakers visited the Asian country in 2017, spending some $3.2 billion.

The industry emerged as a cornerstone of Sri Lanka’s economy as the country sought to rebrand itself after the end of a 26-year civil war in 2009. But in November, deluxe hotels reported cancellations and a decline in bookings as two prime ministers battled for power amid fears of a ‘bloodbath’.

Last March a spate of anti-Muslim riots also damaged the island’s reputation as a tourist destination with beaches and historic buildings. Three people died and dozens of Muslim establishments were left in ruins in Kandy, a picturesque hill district famed for its tea plantations and Buddhist icons.

Holidaymakers were urged to avoid the hill resort, which is also home to Sri Lanka’s holiest Buddhist shrine, the Temple of the Tooth Relic.The country remains deeply scarred by its 1983-2009 civil war, when Tamil rebels fought to create an independent homeland.

Sri Lanka has long been divided between the majority Sinhalese, who are overwhelmingly Buddhist, and minority Tamils who are Hindu, Muslim and Christian. A Christian group said there had been 86 cases of discrimination, threats and violence against followers of Jesus last year, with another 26 so far this year.

The U.S. State Department warned in a 2018 report that Christians had been pressured to close places of worship after they were deemed ‘unauthorised gatherings’. The report also said Buddhist monks regularly tried to close down Christian and Muslim places of worship.  There have also been attacks on Muslims, with the government forced to declare a state of emergency amid a spate of anti-Muslim rioting. Hard-line Buddhist groups accuse Muslims of forcing people to convert and destroying sacred Buddhist sites.

One radical Muslim group, the NTJ, has been linked to the vandalisation of Buddhist statues and has also reportedly plotted to attack Christian churches. (By TIM STICKINGS FOR MAILONLINE and AFP)



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