The UK’s Foreign Office has announced today (Thursday) that only essential travel to and from Sri Lanka will be advised following Easter Sunday bombings.
Killing at least 353 people and leaving more than 500 injured were nine terrorist bombers who targeted a number of churches and hotels on April 21 in a series of vicious attacks, where it is thought eight Britons were among those killed.
In a statement from the Foreign Office it described the situation as a “State of Emergency” and said further attacks could be indiscriminate and in places “visited by foreigners” but ensured security had been stepped up across the island.
“The Sri Lankan authorities have made a number of arrests in relation to the attacks, and security operations are ongoing, including controlled explosions of suspicious packaged and vehicles, and temporary evacuations of buildings.”
However, it added the extent of any continued threat following the Easter bombings was unclear and that on April 24 a warning was issued by Sri Lanka police suggesting mosques may be targeted by attacks – with ‘Aulia’ mosques being most vulnerable for having a connection to the “burial sites of Muslim Saints”.
It is thought there are an estimated 10,000 UK citizens who are long-term residents of the country and a further 8,000 British holidaymakers are there currently, leaving some people open to possible risk.
But despite travel warnings, the Foreign Office issued advice on what you should do if you are in Sri Lanka or are planning to go despite the formal announcement.
The advice states you should:
- Remain vigilant, keep up to date with developments and follow the advice of local security authorities and hotel security staff;
- Keep a low profile, avoid crowded public places, large gatherings (including religious gatherings and places of worship) and any demonstrations;
- Avoid travelling during periods of curfew (other than to/from the airport);
- Keep in touch with family and friends, ensuring they are aware of any plans you may have.
Jeremy Hunt, the UK Foreign Secretary, said he wished the advice was only cautionary and that travel to and from Sri Lanka would continue as usual after the security operation had been carried out.
“Following the horrific attacks on Easter Sunday, and the ongoing Sri Lankan security operation, I have received updated advice from the Foreign Office,” he said, “and decided to update the travel advice to British nationals to Sri Lanka to advise against all but essential travel.
“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.
He added: “We will do all we can to help the Sri Lankan authorities in the meantime.”