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Sri Lankan Catholics cancel Mass again

May 2, 2019

Catholic services are being canceled in Sri Lanka for a second weekend. The move comes after government warnings that there could be a repeat of the Easter Sunday church attacks, in which more than 250 died.

St. Sebastian's Church in Negombo, Sri Lanka
Image: Imago Images/Imagebroker

Sri Lanka's Catholic Church said on Thursday it would not resume Sunday services as planned on May 5 after the government warned of more possible attacks by an "Islamic State" (IS)-linked group that carried out deadly suicide bombings on Easter Sunday.

A spokesman for the Catholic diocese in the capital, Colombo, said Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith had decided to cancel services once again based on the latest security reports.

Masses have not been celebrated in the South Asian country since the attacks on April 21, in which at least 253 people died in bombings at three churches and three luxury hotels.

Read more: Messages of peace, hope and unity: religious leaders react to Sri Lanka attacks 

Malcolm Ranjith
Ranjith is currently being protected by bodyguardsImage: picture-alliance/AP Photo/M. Swarup

Security stepped up

Instead of public services last Sunday, the cardinal delivered a homily at his residence that was broadcast live on television.

Security forces have been deployed at churches across the country since the attacks and Ranjith has been given several bodyguards.

The Easter attacks were blamed on the local National Thowheeth Jamaath (NTJ) group, which had pledged allegiance to IS. Late on Wednesday, Sri Lankan police released the names and photographs of nine suicide bombers thought to have carried out the Easter attacks. They included NTJ leader Mohamed Zahran, also known as Zahran Hashim, an extremist preacher.

Police say they have arrested more than 150 suspects since the attacks. However, the government has come under fire from Ranjith for apparently failing to share intelligence on plans for the Easter bombings.

Read more: Sri Lanka's Muslims under pressure after Easter Sunday bombings

tj/msh (AFP, AP)

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