The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office has advised people to avoid travelling to Sri Lanka unless absolutely necessary as it monitors the "evolving security situation" following the attacks on 21 April.
“Terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in Sri Lanka,” the UK Foreign Office advised.
The advice goes on to note that a number of security operations are ongoing, including “controlled explosions of suspicious packages and vehicles, and temporary evacuations of buildings.” The threat level following the Easter Sunday attacks is “unclear”, the advice continues.
Foreign Office advises UK citizens not to travel to Sri Lanka https://t.co/3TEVuBJa0h
— The Guardian (@guardian) April 25, 2019
Authorities urge tourists to avoid travelling to Sri Lanka
The Foreign Office advice also notes that on 24 April, local police issued a warning that the Aulia Mosques might be targeted by terrorists.
UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the advice would be constantly reviewed. “My first priority will always be the security of British citizens living and travelling abroad,” he said in a statement.
“We all hope the situation will return to normal very soon, and that the Sri Lankan tourism industry is able to get back on its feet following the terrorist attacks. We will do all we can to help the Sri Lankan authorities.”
On 26 April, Australian government website Smart Traveller added an update to its travel advice for the country, repeating the words of the UK Foreign Office. “Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places visited by foreigners. Security has been stepped up across the island,” it said. It also noted that a State of Emergency and night-time curfew are still in place.
Travellers are warned to avoid large gatherings and public demonstrations as they may turn violent.
The heightened warnings come as Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe cautioned that suspects connected to the 21 April attacks were still at large and may have explosives.
The possibility that the fugitives “may go out for a suicide attack,” remained open, he told The Associated Press.
“This is another experience for us. Not that we are not strangers to terrorism, but this is global terrorism, so we have to ensure that we root this out,” he said.
Around 250 people were killed in the series of suicide bombings in Sri Lanka’s capital, Colombo. The official death toll has been revised down from previous police estimates of 359. More than 500 others were injured in the attacks.
Sri Lanka toll revised down by 'about 100' https://t.co/VR6xNv2Jk9
— BBC News (World) (@BBCWorld) April 25, 2019
Sri Lanka has been rocked by the attacks
Two days after the deadly attacks, Islamic State claimed responsibility. In a video posted on 23 April, eight people, including the suspected leader of the attacks, pledged allegiance to the caliphate.
Sri Lankan authorities also believe extremist group National Towheed Jamaat may be involved in the attacks. They believe an outside group must have helped, given the large scale and coordination of the attack.
One of the suspects under arrest is millionaire businessman Mohammad Yusuf Ibrahim. He is suspected of abetting his two sons, who are said to have been among the eight suicide bombers. Wickremasinghe claimed he was unlikely to have been involved.
“People like that would not have wanted their sons to blow themselves up,” he said.
Muslims flee town in Sri Lanka as tensions rise after bombings https://t.co/oRa5GTjCde
— The Guardian (@guardian) April 25, 2019
Catholic church services across the country have been suspended due to the security situation.
There have also been widespread fears of revenge attacks and hundreds of Muslims have fled Negombo, where church bombings were carried out. More than 700 refugees from a persecuted Ahmadi Islamic sect were in protection after making a hasty exit from the port city.
Sri Lanka Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando has now left his post as expected. He was heavily criticised for intelligence failures in the lead-up to the church and hotel bombings.
More than 70 people have now been arrested for their part in the terror attacks.