Colombo, October 28: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday visited the St Anthony’s Church in north Colombo, one of the three churches devastated by the horrific Easter Sunday attacks in 2019, and paid tributes to the victims of the deadly terror strikes.
Nine suicide bombers belonging to the local Islamist extremist group National Thawheed Jamaat linked to ISIS carried out a series of devastating blasts that tore through three churches and as many luxury hotels on the Easter Sunday last year, killing 258 people, including 11 Indians and five Americans.
“Today, I laid a wreath at the Shrine of St. Anthony, one of the sites of the 2019 Easter Attacks which killed and injured hundreds of innocent people. We stand with the Sri Lankan people and the world to defeat violent extremism and bring perpetrators to justice,” Pompeo tweeted before heading for the Maldives.
At least 93 people were killed at the St Anthony’s Church located in the north Colombo ward of Kochchikade on April 21, 2019.
Three months later, the church was re-opened and in early June last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the church and paid tribute to the victims. Modi was the first foreign leader to visit Sri Lanka after the Easter attacks.
Pompeo, who became the Trump administration’s highest ranking official to visit Sri Lanka, said that five Americans were among hundreds of victims of evil terrorists on Easter Sunday.
“I’m proud that the State Department has offered substantial counterterrorism assistance to help Sri Lankans bring killers of Americans and their own people to justice. These Easter Sunday attacks represent the kind of sectarianism that Sri Lankans are ready to leave behind forever,” he said while addressing a joint press conference with his Sri Lankan counterpart Dinesh Gunawardena.
“Let us all stand together shoulder-to-shoulder and let’s do even more together on the strength of our partnership armed by democratic values,” said Pompeo, who was in Sri Lanka on a two-day official visit.
Pompeo, who discussed a range of bilateral issues during his meeting with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, earlier said that the US and Sri Lanka shared a vision for democracy to build a relationship and the “freedom to hold democratic elections”. (PTI)