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Death toll rises to at least 207 in Sri Lanka coordinated attacks ‘targeted on Christians’

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A series of eight devastating bomb blasts ripped through high-end hotels and churches holding Easter services in Sri Lanka on Sunday, killing more than 160 people, including dozens of foreigners.

But the BBC in their latest update said at least 2017 people have been killed.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe condemned the attacks — the worst act of violence since the end of Sri Lanka’s civil war a decade ago — as “cowardly”, as the government imposed an immediate and indefinite curfew across the entire country of 21 million people.

SUICIDE BOMBERS

The powerful blasts — six in quick succession and then two more hours later — wrought devastation, including at the capital’s well-known St Anthony’s Shrine, a historic Catholic Church.

At least two of the attacks were confirmed as being carried out by suicide bombers, according to police sources and a hotel official.

Hospital sources said British, Dutch and American citizens were among the dead, with Britons and Japanese also injured.

A Portuguese man also died, the country’s LUSA news agency reported.

An AFP photographer at the scene at St Anthony’s saw bodies lying on the floor, some draped with scarves and clothes.

Much of the church roof was blown out in the explosion, with roof tiles, glass and splintered wood littering the floor along with pools of blood.

At the Shangri-La hotel, an AFP photographer saw extensive damage on the second floor restaurant, with windows blown out and electrical wires hanging from the ceiling.

The injured flooded into local hospitals, where officials reported hundreds of wounded were being admitted.

ATTACK ALERT

There were no immediate claims of responsibility for the blasts, but documents seen by AFP show that Sri Lanka’s police chief Pujuth Jayasundara issued an intelligence alert to top officers 10 days ago, warning that suicide bombers planned to hit “prominent churches”.

“A foreign intelligence agency has reported that the NTJ (National Thowheeth Jama’ath) is planning to carry out suicide attacks targeting prominent churches as well as the Indian high commission in Colombo,” the alert said.

The NTJ is a radical Muslim group in Sri Lanka that was linked last year to the vandalisation of Buddhist statues.

The government ordered a nationwide curfew to start immediately and last “until further notice”, and a “temporary” social media ban was imposed “in order to prevent incorrect and wrong information being spread”.

The first blast was reported at St Anthony’s, followed by a second deadly explosion at St Sebastian’s, a church in the town of Negombo, north of the capital.

“A bomb attack to our church, please come and help if your family members are there,” read a post in English on the church’s Facebook page.

HOTELS ATTACKED

Soon after, police confirmed that a third church in the east-coast town of Batticaloa had been hit, along with three high-end hotels in the capital — the Cinnamon Grand, the Shangri-La and the Kingsbury.

An official at the Cinnamon Grand, near the prime minister’s official residence in Colombo, said a suicide bomber blew himself up at people at the hotel’s restaurant.

“He came up to the top of the queue and set off the blast,” he told AFP.

A police official told AFP that the death toll after the first six blasts was at least 156, including 35 foreigners.

Later in the afternoon, two died in a strike at a hotel in the south of Colombo, while a police source said a suicide bomber hit the suburb of Orugodawatta in the north of the capital, killing three and bringing the overall toll to at least 161.

GLOBAL CONDEMNATION

President Maithripala Sirisena said in an address that he was shocked by the explosions and appealed for calm.

On Twitter, Wickremesinghe wrote: “I strongly condemn the cowardly attacks on our people today.

“I call upon all Sri Lankans during this tragic time to remain united and strong. Please avoid propagating unverified reports and speculation. The government is taking immediate steps to contain this situation.”

The Archbishop of Colombo, Malcolm Ranjith, described those behind the attacks as “animals” and called on the authorities to “punish them mercilessly”.

US President Donald tweeted his condolences on the “horrible terrorist attacks”, and Pope Francis in his Easter address at the Vatican spoke of his “affectionate closeness with the Christian community, attacked while it was at prayer”.

‘HORRIBLE SCENES’

Sri Lanka’s Minister of Economic Reforms and Public Distribution, Harsha de Silva, said he had been to two of the attacked hotels and was at the scene at St Anthony’s, where he described “horrible scenes”.

“I saw many body parts strewn all over,” he tweeted, adding that there were “many casualties including foreigners”.

“Please stay calm and indoors,” he added.

Embassies in Colombo warned their citizens to shelter in place, and Sri Lankan Airlines told customers to arrive at the airport four hours ahead of flights because of ramped-up security in the wake of the attacks.

Only around six percent of mainly Buddhist Sri Lanka is Catholic, but the religion is seen as a unifying force because it includes people from both the Tamil and majority Sinhalese ethnic groups.

There have been no attacks in Sri Lanka linked to foreign Islamist groups, despite local media reports that a 37-year-old Sri Lankan was killed in Syria in 2016 while fighting for the Islamic State group.

In January, Sri Lankan police seized a haul of explosives and detonators stashed near a wildlife sanctuary following the arrest of four men from a newly formed radical Muslim group.

-Agencies

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Apply for KeNHA’s TVET scholarships, Waiguru tells Kirinyaga youth

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Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru has challenged youth in her county to apply for scholarships being offered by the Kenya National Highways Authority (KeNHA) in selected technical and vocational education and training (TVET) institutions.

Ms Waiguru Monday revealed that KeNHA has chosen Sagana Technical Institute and Kaitheri Youth Polytechnic as training centres for the skills sponsored programme targeting young people living along the upcoming Kenol-Sagana-Marwa dual carriage way.

The governor noted that the training will improve chances of the youth getting road construction jobs. She added that she has lobbied the national government for 30 per cent of the slots to be reserved for Kirinyaga residents.

“For the youth who have been seeking jobs, this is an opportunity knocking at your doorsteps and you should seize it by enrolling yourselves in either of these two institutions,” she said.

In an advertisement, KeNHA indicated that those who qualify for the skills training must be aged between 18 and 35 years and should register with their KCSE or KCPE certificates. The successful candidates will each receive a scholarship for three terms which will cater for tuition fees and accommodation.

Sagana Technical Institute is offering carpentry, electrical wiring, masonry, welding and fabrication while Kaitheri Youth Polytechnic is offering motor vehicle mechanics, electrical installation grade three and hairdressing and beauty courses.

According to the advert, applications are to be submitted to the Kirinyaga County commissioner’s office by November 3.

The upcoming 84-kilometre dual carriage highway is part of the Great North Road that connects Mombasa port to Addis Ababa through Nairobi, Isiolo and Moyale.

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Entertainment

Death of festivals dims Lamu hope to revive ailing tourism

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Maulid. Food and Expo. Art, yoga and kite festivals. These are just a few of a slew of art and culture experiences that Lamu County used to dish out to the world and which boosted its tourism profile.

Lamu Old Town, also known as “the island of festivals”, had a splendid array of events and festivals ranging from Eid-Ul-Adhar to the Lamu Fishing Competition, Lamu Art Festival, The Lamu Cultural Festival, Lamu Yoga Festival, the Kite Festival, Shella Hat Contest and the Lamu Painters Festival.

But these events were put on the back burner as the tourism sector took a nosedive.

Coming on the backdrop of the Mpeketoni terror attacks in 2014 that also hit tourism hard, hospitality industry players say the vital sector is in the doldrums and want the festivals reinstated. Speaking during a forum in Lamu at the weekend, hoteliers and other players questioned why the county government has not been keen in reviving the events.

Hotelier Salim Abubakar said the county’s tourism sector was on the decline after the festivals were lifted. He urged Governor Fahim Twaha to restore the events and revive the sector.

“All the festivals that were introduced in the calendar of events are crucial. They served to attract visitors, both domestic and international, to Lamu. We need them back so that the tourism sector can be improved,” he said.

Marketing strategy

Former Lamu Tourism Association (LTA) deputy chairman Ghalib Alwy said the body, in partnership with the county tourism office started the festivals to attract more tourists. Mr Alwy said it is important that the events are retained.

“We launched those events as a marketing strategy for Lamu tourism. Through them, we were able to attract tourists from Kenya, East Africa and the world. This is after the terrorism attacks led to an almost 90 percent decline of the sector. It’s only through the festivals that tourists got the confidence to visit Lamu again. The events must be reinstated,” said Mr Alwy. Mr Mohamed Hassan noted that local tourism was still doing badly, attributing the situation to a section of foreign countries that are still having active travel advisories against their citizens visiting Lamu.

“The travel advisories still play a big role in scaring away tourists. We want as many festivals as possible as they have the ability to ensure the tourism climbs back on its feet,” said Mr Hassan.

Some of the festivals known and which are still being celebrated by many in Lamu includes the annual Lamu Cultural Festival that is marked between November and December, the Maulid Festival marked every January, New Year’s Dhow Race marked on January 1 and Eid Ul-Fitr marked every July.

The festivals are said to attract more than 30,000 visitors from around the world.

by Nation.africa

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News

Drama as delegates heckle DP Ruto during BBI launch 

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BY KEVIN KOECH

Delegates heckled Deputy President William Ruto during the launch of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report at the Bomas of Kenya over his remarks on the report

The DP was forced to pause his speech after the delegates started booing him after he appeared to express his dissatisfaction at the Youth leader Trans Nzoia County Alex Matere’s remarks about his wheelbarrow donations.

Ruto said by saying that Kenyans should not adopt 16th-century technology, Matere was referring to the wheelbarrows he has been supplying to Kenyans.

However, Ruto noted that the discussions Kenyans should have is why a 16th-century tool has millions of citizens still dependent on it in the 21st-century.

The DP’s remarks didn’t sit well with most of the delegates, which resulted in them openly expressing their displeasure and forcing him to stop talking.

Mbita Member of Parliament Millie Odhiambo appeared mainly pissed by Ruto’s remarks as he stood and jeering Ruto, drowning his speech.

He went on to ask for a minute to conclude his speech but the crowd couldn’t hear of it as they continued to jeer him after he appeared to hit out at the former Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka.

Ruto concluded his speech by calling on leaders to refrain from contests pitting the rich and the poor by quoting former US President Abraham Lincoln.

DP Ruto then proceeded to welcome his boss President Uhuru Kenyatta to make his remarks with the delegates still shouting “respect the president,” as he took his seat.

Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga also hit on the DP for engaging in early campaigns instead of supporting the President in delivering the Big-4 Agenda.

Raila said that Kenyans expect to be united for now but not campaigns of who will be the President in 2022 as they will handle that when the time comes.

The ODM Party leader noted that Ruto and President Uhuru Kenyatta should be working as a pair to bring a difference in the country.

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