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At Least 207 People Killed In Coordinated Sri Lanka Blast; Pope Offers Condolences For Victims Of Sri Lanka Bombings; Egypt Votes On Second Day Of Constitutional Referendum; Ukrainians Vote For Their New President. Aired 11a-12p ET
Aired April 21, 2019 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[11:00:00] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN "BREAKING NEWS."
NATALIE ALLEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello and welcome. Thank you for joining us. I appreciate you joining us, I'm Natalie Allen filling in for
Becky Anderson today. And we began with a massacre, a series of horrific attacks leaving the nation of Sri Lanka reeling and mourning and on
The country has been slammed by eight explosions, attacks designed to murder Christian worshippers and tourists indiscriminately. You can see
the sites of several attacks here which targeted high-end hotels in the capital city of Colombo. And this video captures the moment of a blast at
a church near Colombo.
More than 200 people are dead from all of this, more than 450 injured. You can see some of the devastations here a place of worship where people had
gathered on Easter Sunday now strewn with blood. A countrywide curfew is now in effect. Let's get to our Will Ripley who is tracking the story from
Just a tragedy that is hard to comprehend for the people in this now peaceful country, Will, but there have been arrests. What do we know about
WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we know, Natalie, that several suspects are in police custody right now. We're getting differing
numbers depending on whether it's police or government officials. Anywhere from three to seven people under arrest and being questioned at this hour.
And all of the suspects are Sri Lankan according to police spokesperson who held a press conference a couple of hours ago.
What's not clear though is where these people might come from. We know they're Sri Lankan but are they members of local militias, remnants of the
-- of that country's civil war where fighting ended nearly a decade ago, next month will be the 10-year anniversary. Could they be part of some
opposition group and still inside the country or are they part of an international terror organization.
Given the level of sophistication, the fact that these attacks were coordinated, that they occurred you know, in rapid succession throughout
the country, eight explosions in total, three churches, four hotels, and then police were killed, several police officers killed as they were
raiding a house potentially tied to some of the suspects in this attack.
The majority of the explosions in Colombo which is the largest city but also explosions in Batticaloa, and Negombo, you know, churches with
Christians celebrating Easter and also hotels catering to foreigners, the primary targets here. So a lot of unanswered questions why Sri Lanka, a
country that has just a seven percent Christian population and 70 percent Buddhist, and it is a country that you know, is now grappling to try to
contain this situation.
After scenes of horror with a thousand people inside one church and the explosion rang out, people ran as you know bodies were lying on the ground
and pieces of flesh were thrown throughout the sanctuary and even outside the church.
Sri Lanka's president calling all police officers off of their Easter breaks to try to maintain order instituting a nationwide curfew that is in
effect right now, telling people not to gather in public areas especially near where these explosions took place because they don't know if they have
all the suspects in custody yet, if there could be more attacks planned, canceling schools at least until midweek, and all the while also mourning
the deaths of you know now more than 200 people and the injuries of well over 400 as condemnation and sorrow pours in from all around the world
including the Pope who held a moment of silence, Natalie, for the victims particularly the Christians who were killed as they celebrated the Easter
ALLEN: Right. I've heard one security analysts say that as far as deaths and injuries, this is the biggest terrorist event since 9/11, and the fact
that it happened in Sri Lanka is so hard to understand. As you were saying you know, it's been ten years that this country has lived in relative peace
since the end of the civil war.
RIPLEY: And it's a country that has tried to develop a reputation as a -- as a tourist hotspot. And a lot of people were there on vacation for this
long holiday weekend. So yes, the churches were one target, but the country itself and its tourism industry another target. You know,
terrorist attacks always have a motivation and one is to frighten people from doing things that they normally would do like go on vacation and place
like Sri Lanka.
You know, attacks against Christians on Easter are certainly not unprecedented. You can think back to Pakistan in 2016 or Northern Nigeria
back in 2012. But in terms of the number of people killed, this is certainly the largest in recent years. And it is a terrifying scenario for
people who go to a place of worship on a holy day like Easter if they are Christian, and they want to share in a day of honoring their faith with
fellow Christians and for something like this to happen.
That's why you have everyone from the U.S. President Donald Trump to the Turkish President Erdogan, to the Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan,
and even British Prime Minister Theresa May calling this just truly appalling.
[11:05:30] ALLEN: If we can go back to the investigation for a moment there, Will. I know it's still tough to find out about those who have been
arrested because it's early on with the investigation and the intelligence, but we know that these blasts, eight of them happened at churches, hotels,
but there was also a house involved. Do we know anything about that?
RIPLEY: Yes, so the police are giving us some more details about what exactly happened at that house because initially, it didn't seem to make
sense why there would be an explosion at a house when the other -- the other primary targets were places that were crowded with people. What now
seems apparent is that police went to this house in the hours following the attacks.
And because of this explosion -- there was actually two explosions at the house and they were significantly later. And police officers had entered
this home and were questioning people inside when according to the police there were two blasts inside the house and then three police officers who
were on the scene investigating sadly were killed and there were others who were injured and you know, but were far enough away from the blasts that
they -- that they were not killed.
So it does seem as if while following leads and doing the work that first responders and police officers bravely do, they lost their own lives
entering into a home and then -- and then when explosions happen once the police were inside that home.
ALLEN: Right, so tragic. All right, Will Ripley, we'll continue to stay in close contact with you as there are more developments. Thank you so
much, Will. Well, as we mentioned, there were eight explosions. We want right now to focus on the seventh blast. That bomb went off at a hotel
near the International Zoo.
This video right here captures smoke rising from the scene. Asela Waidyalankara heard the blast and took this video, and I spoke with him a
short time ago.
ALLEN: Joining us now is Asela Waidyalankara, an eyewitness to one of the blasts. We really appreciate your time. We know this has been just a
horrific day there. I understand that you witnessed the seventh blast that occurred at a hotel. What can you tell us?
ASELA WAIDYALANKARA, WITNESS: Well, we were, in fact, watching the news of the other blasts that were happening, and suddenly we heard a very loud
explosion. So basically we -- I went to investigate. There's a top area in my house. And when -- what I -- what I did when I got up to my rooftop
is I actually saw a house with white belching smoke that just probably corresponds to the area which the explosion happened.
Within a very few moments, I noticed that a helicopter flew over. I'm not sure if it's a military helicopter or a civilian helicopter but certainly,
a helicopter flew over. Then you could hear the noises of the emergency services which is the ambulance service as well as the fire services coming
in. So we knew definitely there was something going on and this was part of the larger attack.
And while this was going on, I noticed on Twitter as well as the news wires that there has indeed been an explosion in Dehiwala and two people have
ALLEN: An eye witness there. Well, talking with me now is Sajan Gohel. He's a terrorism expert with the London School of Economics and we
appreciate you joining us for your perspective, Sjan. I want to begin with the scale of this attack, just unprecedented in Sri Lanka. Eight attacks,
hundreds killed and wounded. What is the scale of this attack tell you as far as the sophistication of the terrorists and the coordination?
SAJJAN GOHEL, TEACHER, LONDON SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS: Well, Natalie, if we break it down, we're talking about multiple attacks, some was synchronized
others were a phase but they were all done in a way to create maximum casualties to inflict damage to infrastructure and to target Sri Lanka's
And if we look at the fact that they also targeted hotels which would have an impact on business and on tourism, these attacks ultimately have created
political, economic, and social consequences within Sri Lanka. And that is often the hallmarks of a transnational group.
Now, the individuals behind this, they may have been recruited entirely within Sri Lanka They may have not traveled abroad, but the ideology that
they've bought into is definitely alien. It is definitely not part of Sri Lankan society, and it's part of the similar type of doctrine that we've
seen in other countries with the transnational attacks be it in France or in Canada or in parts of Africa, the Middle East.
[11:10:06] ALLEN: But why Sri Lanka? Why target Sri Lanka? There's been peace here for a decade since the end of the civil war. It's a
multicultural country. The Christian population is very small, the Muslim community even smaller.
GOHEL: Well, certainly the fact is that since the end of the Civil War with the Tamil Tigers in 2009, there has been relative peace and stability
in Sri Lanka and the country has become a very popular spot for tourism and for investment. But we also have to keep in mind that within that, there
has been a small fraction of Sri Lankans that have traveled to join ISIS and other jihadist groups in Syria.
I was in Sri Lanka last year and the police authorities there were actually talking about their concern about that as the ISIS Caliphate continues to
decrease. They could potentially have the blowback of people coming back to Sri Lanka, or the fact that Sri Lankans are getting radicalized online
through the social media, the dark web, the encrypted messaging, very similar to how people have been radicalized in Britain, or in Australia, or
in Germany with the sort of homegrown terrorism that we're seeing.
And this attack though was very sophisticated because these explosive devices were not something that could have just been produced overnight.
These individuals planned it, they timed it for Easter Sunday, they did the reconnaissance of the churches of the hotels. They did probably an
analysis with security at these locations so this was something that was planned long in advance.
And it may be also interesting to remember that after the Christchurch attacks at the two mosques in New Zealand, ISIS called for revenge during
the Easter period.
ALLEN: Well, someone has perhaps picked up that call because I was going to ask you if there's ISIS presence in Sri Lanka but you just kind of
explained how it could be now that we've seen the demise of the Caliphate and knowing that it would go elsewhere. Is it unusual that there's been no
claim of responsibility? Is that a hallmark of ISIS in the early going?
GOHEL: Well, in the past when ISIS was at its peak capacity, they certainly would want to take credit and responsibility for it soon after.
But the fact is their resources have somewhat diminished so there could be a delay. Even if ISIS are not directly responsible, they may still wish to
take credit for it.
And we also shouldn't forget that there is that other actor that still exists within the periphery of South Asia and that is al-Qaeda. Al-Qaeda
is regrowing, al Qaeda is reassembling, Ayman al-Zawahiri and Hamza bin Laden, Osama bin Laden son are trying to repackage the group to try and
challenge ISIS for the mantle of transnational terrorist groups.
So that is there as well and we also know with the growth of the Taliban in Afghanistan which could become accessible for terrorism again, there are
all these hotspots emerging Natalie. And Sri Lanka, unfortunately, is on the receiving end of whichever group is responsible. And sadly this Easter
Sunday which should have been a peaceful period for so many people has now turned into devastation.
ALLEN: Right. And the larger picture for Lanka, it's very much a welcoming country to tourists and tourists were targeted at these hotels.
People from countries around the world have been killed. Let's talk about that angle and security at places like hotels moving forward that needs to
be in place, Sajjan.
GOHEL: The hotels in Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka have relatively good security and they've had to because of the previous problems that they
face from the Tamil Tigers. There may be an argument that since the civil war ended, that security is perhaps become more lacks or not necessarily as
intense as it used to be because peace has remained in Sri Lanka.
There are certain communal tensions, pockets of violence that may spillover between different religious and ethnic groups, but this has been a
relatively peaceful island for the last ten years. In fact, only recently both the Tamil and Sinhalese community celebrated their respective New
Years in the 14th of April so this is a holiday period.
Families were out and about, tourists were also mingling. Unfortunately, it's during these times that terrorists would want to target people because
they can inflict more devastation and more damage and I hope that this doesn't have a negative effect on Sri Lanka's economy, especially on
I hope it doesn't put people off because Sri Lanka is a beautiful island. There are so many wonderful things to see and it shouldn't be remembered
just for this incident. It should be remembered for the good things as well.
ALLEN: Right. Someone earlier from Sri Lanka was telling me it's a multi- cultural country and so this holiday, this religious holiday is shared by many cultures across the country it's celebrated in some form.
But right now Sajjan, I want to also ask you about how they deal with safety. The country is in virtual lockdown. There's an indefinite curfew
that's been imposed. Schools are shut down. They have taken social media off to try to tamp down the false information that can be spread on that
vehicle. How can the intelligence community now assist Sri Lanka outside of the country in their effort to make sure this is over and to thwart
another possible attack with the patterns of attack that we've seen?
[11:15:32] GOHEL: My understanding is that the FBI and the Australian Federal Police, the AFP, are already now working with the Sri Lankans to
piece together this attack, the plots, the individuals involved, to see how big the cell is, the scale of it, are there other individuals potentially
involved on the periphery that needs to be identified.
So the United States and Australia that have been key partners in assisting Sri Lanka in the past when it comes to counterterrorism are already there
working with the Sri Lankan authorities and that's very important.
And in terms of the lockdown, the curfew, and the isolation of social media that you mentioned, it's not necessarily new to Sri Lankan. Because during
the problems of the civil war, Sri Lankan governments had implemented curfews and also tried to control the way media responded to attacks
because they wanted to limit the potential impact of the ramifications of that messaging because they are worried about the social implications.
Things are still sensitive in Sri Lanka between the Tamil and Sinhalese community. They're of course much better than they used to be. But
authorities don't want to go back to the dark days and they don't want communal tensions also spilling over between the Christians, the Buddhists,
and Muslim community.
ALLEN: We thank you so much for your insights and expertise. Sajjan Gohel, thank you for your time.
GOHEL: My pleasure, Natalie. ALLEN: And still to come here, Pope Francis took time during Easter Sunday
mass to pray for the victims in Sri Lanka. His message of support, that's coming next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I heard the explosion and then the roof fell on us. We took the children and ran out from the rear door. But
when I came to the hospital, I saw my brother-in-law and son on the ground.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ALLEN: Unbelievably tragic, heartwrenching story there. Our top story, again, at least 207 people had been killed this Easter Sunday. More than
450 injured in what appears to be a set of coordinated attacks in Sri Lanka. Eight explosions targeted high-end hotels and churches where people
had gathered to worship on Easter Sunday.
Survivors described scenes of horror and terror. A 12-hour curfew was now in place across the island as security forces sweep the blast areas.
Police say three officers were killed during a raid on a house that had been suspicious.
Malcolm Ranjith is the Archbishop of Colombo. This is what he had to say just a short time ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[11:20:45] MALCOLM RANJITH, SRI LANKAN ARCHBISHOP: This morning, Easter Sunday, in two of my churches St. Anthony's Church Kochchikade and St.
Sebastian's Church Katuwapitiya, two bombs exploded killing nearly 150 people from the initial statistics that have come to me. So it's a very,
very sad day for all of us.
I also like to ask the government to hold a very impartial strong inquiry and find out who is responsible behind this act, and also to punish them
mercilessly because only animals can behave like that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ALLEN: So it is a dark Easter Sunday there in Sri Lanka and elsewhere actually with the bombings at churches and businesses there in Sri Lanka,
and renewed violence in Northern Ireland around the anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement. CNN's Nic Robertson is reporting on that story for us.
He is with us again live from Londonderry. And hello to you Nick.
I want to ask you know, many people trying to understand, Nic, on this Easter Sunday why Sri Lanka and why now. You have covered wars,
hostilities, terrorism for many years all over the world so the question is what could have been behind what happened in Sri Lanka?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: What's very clear is that this was intended to target Christians and it was intended to send a
very strong and clear message on this really holy day for Christians that they were the target and that they be struck in their places of prayer. In
any religion, this is one of the sort of the most heinous act that's imaginable.
So the message is very clear. These weren't targeting, just targeting whites say as we've seen in the past hotels where Westerners might be
staying this was very clear effort to target Christians. So that's clear. Why now isn't clear. We noted that in the recent past there was a shooting
in the mosques in Zeeland and we know that ISIS called on people to take revengeful acts for that.
And we know that in the past both ISIS and al-Qaeda have called for attacks around Christian times of Christian holidays Christmas and Easter. So is
it them and is this the reason? It isn't clear and it might take some time to get to the bottom of it because of course both of those organizations
are very ready with their propaganda to claim anything like this sort of incident for theirs and it will be for the police and the investigators in
Sri Lanka to really get to the bottom of who was behind this and then you can begin to get some of those questions and so for real.
It was clearly very carefully coordinated, very carefully planned, and executed with a degree of precision. And the death toll I think speaks to
the absolute bloody intent here. I mean, all these are the things that are clear right now.
ALLEN: Yes, the scales is hard to comprehend. Well, you're there covering the violence that we've seen surrounding the anniversary of the Good Friday
Agreement, Northern Ireland, and now another horrific act on it Easter Sunday makes you wonder if this outbreak in Sri Lanka adds to the gloom
over Northern Ireland right now on such a holy day.
ROBERTSON: Yes. It's -- I mean, I think it sort of felt by Christianity at large. I mean this is you know, for many people in Europe and the
United States would wake up to the news from Sri Lanka on this most holy day, it's horrific news. And it comes at the end of the week where you've
seen the Cathedral venerated by Christians around the world in the Catholic Church burnt the spire fall and concerns about the holy relics there.
Those relics were saved but that was a big shock for the Christian faith.
Just a couple of days ago you had an arsonist walk into St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York with the intent of -- apparent intent of burning that
down as well. And then you know, in the build-up to Easter here at a time when the police were performing raids ahead of an Easter Parade, the
parade, lot to do with nationalism than Easter, the uprising the Irish against the British rule in 1916.
But the police were raiding and the people, young youths in this city were rioting throwing petrol bombs at the police. And that's when a gunman that
the police described as a new breed of terrorist, those were those words, a new breed of terrorists from the new IRA shot at the police vehicles
killing a young very promising journalist Lyra McKee.
People here journalists and the people of Northern Ireland, and Ireland at large really respected this journalist. She was a cut above a bright and
rising star. And her star has been darkened snuffed out in the words of her partner.
So this has been a difficult week you know, for all those of the Christian faith, but a deep and terrible shock this Sunday.
[11:25:54] ALLEN: We appreciate your insights as always. Nic Robertson there for us in Londonderry, Northern Ireland. Thank you, Nic. Not to
mention of course the fire there at Notre Dame in Paris on the days leading up to Easter as well is a tragedy for the Catholic Church and now we see
what's happened in Sri Lanka.
So the Pope, Pope Francis had something to say about all of this. He led Easter Mass of course in Vatican Square condemning the attacks in Sri Lanka
and offering prayers for the victims. CNN Senior Vatican Analyst John Allen has that story from Rome.
JOHN ALLEN, CNN SENIOR VATICAN ANALYST: In his customary greetings on Easter Sunday to roughly 70,000 people in St. Peter's Square today, Pope
Francis expressed his spiritual closeness to the victims of today's violence in Sri Lanka. He talked about the sorrow and the pain this
violence is caused denouncing it as cruel violence that has left roughly 146 people dead at least and more than 500 injured.
The attacks on the churches in high-end hotels in Sri Lanka is part of a pattern of attacks on Christian targets on Easter Sunday, the holiest day
on the Christian calendar. In 2015 there was an attack on Christian students at a university in Kenya, 2016 bombings at a park in Lahore,
Pakistan where Christians were celebrating Easter, 2018 a spate of attacks on Christians across India and of course today's violence in Sri Lanka.
In his traditional Urbi et Orbi address, that's an address to the city meaning Rome and to the world on Easter Sunday, Pope Francis also sent out
his concern and he's expressed his commitment for other troubled spots in today's world from Africa to the Middle East, and from South America to
The Pope called for an end to violence and bloodshed. He once again as he often has in the past condemned the arms trade. He expressed in a very
characteristic note who's concerned for the poor and for migrants and refugees. That concludes what has been a very busy holy week period for
Pope Francis that included the traditional way of the cross celebration at Rome's Coliseum on Friday and the Easter Vigil Mass late last night here in
Rome. Reporting from Rome this is John Allen for CNN.
ALLEN: We will continue to bring you updates on the tragedy in Sri Lanka where again coordinated bombings eight left hundreds dead and hundreds
wounded. Much more ahead on that. Also, we look alive to Kiev as Ukrainians go out to vote in their unusual presidential election. We'll
talk about why that is next.
[11:32:12] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN "BREAKING NEWS".
ALLEN: And welcome back, everyone. You're watching CNN, and this is CONNECT THE WORLD. I'm Natalie Allen.
More now on the "BREAKING NEWS" out of Sri Lanka. Police say, at least 207 people were killed, 450 wounded in a series of bombings across the country.
The blasts ripping through churches as worshippers gathered for Easter Sunday. Luxury hotels were also targeted. Now, a nationwide curfew is in
place as security forces sweep the blast areas.
We also know that police have arrested many people at this point, and three officers were killed during a raid on a house they had gone there because
that was an area of suspicion.
Well, the U.K. says, some British citizens were wounded in the Sri Lanka bombings. British authorities did not say how many were called in the
attacks, would say they are being treated in hospital. Earlier, I talked with an official about the blast.
ALLEN: Joining us now is Manisha Gunasekera, High Commissioner of Sri Lanka in the United Kingdom. And thanks so much for joining us on what has
to be a most difficult day.
You have seen an unprecedented attack in your country. The scale is really hard to comprehend. First of all, I want to get your reaction to what's
MANISHA GUNASEKERA, HIGH COMMISSIONER OF SRI LANKA TO UNITED KINGDOM: Yes, Natalie. It's been a day of great tragedy for Sri Lanka. There have been
multiple attacks in different regions in Sri Lanka. Greater Colombo, Negombo, Batticaloa, and so on, and so forth.
And the incidents have targeted churches as well as -- which is a place of worship for the Catholic and the Christian community this Easter Sunday, as
well as hotels. So, certainly, I think, it's the -- that scale of it is unprecedented. These are multiple attacks carried out with a great amount
of coordination and precision.
ALLEN: And the question is who and why commissioner? There have been arrests and we're told right now because, you know, early information is
hard to come by that these are Sri Lankans that carried this out. What does that tell you or how are you making sense of who might have been
GUNASEKERA: Yes, as for the information that has been made available so far, there have been seven arrests, and we don't have the information as to
whether these -- those arrested Sri Lankan nationals are belong to any other nationality.
There's also information that these have been suicide bombings carried out related to these incidents. So, these are certainly acts of terror. It's
very important for us to work on verified information. I think the Sri Lankan authorities have beefed up security and invulnerable points which
also includes places of worship. Also, security with regard to place of worship of all communities, including minority communities. But, as of
now, this is the information that we have.
So, the reason for that, the reason for the attacks is as, as of now, not clear. We also don't know which group or groups have carried out these
attacks. Certainly, a group or groups with sophistication and capacity.
I would say that this is an attack against the whole of Sri Lanka. Because Sri Lanka is a very multi-ethnic, multi-religious, multicultural country.
And the whole country comes together in celebration of Easter Sunday with the Christian and the Catholic community. So, this is an attack against
the Sri Lankans and the Sri Lankan identity, I would say.
[11:36:02] ALLEN: What about the timing? This country is seeing the 10th anniversary since the civil war. It's been peaceful, tourists have been
coming to Sri Lanka, and now this. Do you ask yourself why now?
GUNASEKERA: Yes, I think in that regard, also any body's guess is as good as mine. Sri Lanka is a country which has come out of a protracted
terrorist conflict. And the countries in the process of rebuilding and consolidating reconciliation amongst all communities. And there's also
economic development in the country. The country's emerging as a hub in the South Asian region.
So, certainly, the timing is unfortunate. Sri Lanka is also top tourist destination. And this is -- this is also an attack targeting tourists
because tourists have been affected.
ALLEN: Right. Right.
GUNASEKERA: But, the timing, I cannot speculate any further on that.
ALLEN: Well, and I'm sure you're concerned about the impact to this country and what it means to -- you know, tourism of the countries as well.
We really appreciate your insights.
ALLEN: We thank you for your time. Manisha Gunasekera, thank you.
GUNASEKERA: Thank you very much, Natalie.
ALLEN: We want to get an update now from the scene there in Sri Lanka. Journalists Sandun Arosha joins me now from Colombo. Sandun, we know this
is a very difficult time for you and for the work that you're doing. We appreciate your time helping us understand this -- the scale of this.
First, let's start there in Colombo. Help our viewers understand what bombs went off and where?
SANDUN AROSHA, BUREAU CHIEF, RAAJJETV, COLOMBO: Yes, in the Colombo we have reported six blasts right now. And outside Colombo has a several
blasts also. And I would say, this is a serial blast because this -- all the blast started in the morning at the 8:45 a.m. Sri Lankan time.
And after that, there's a several bomb blast happen inside the Colombo. So, after that police came up with some curfew. And in the evening, there
was a press conference by Sri Lanka police media spokesperson. He said they had some information about blast -- upcoming blast in the evening.
Then, some police officers went to the area or (INAUDIBLE) order.
So, and when they went there, and they searched a house there, and two blasts came there inside the house and outside the some places and the some
police officers also injured there. And since I was talking with my journalists, and with my ground reporters, and some of the members and the
minister's also said that the government has information earlier before this blast.
Earlier, because some document it turn a document from the police department that say there will be some blast, some threats to the Colombo,
so please keep the security people -- please keep the security tightened, and please keep the VIP, and ministers, and the judges. Security
tightened, so there's a circulation document we saw there.
ALLEN: Right, Let me going to ask you about that when I follow up right there. When that document came into police and they realize there could be
a threat at churches, do you know how much time there was when they got that information before these blasts started going off at 8:45 there in the
[11:39:58] AROSHA: Yes, this -- actually, we don't have a right data except that when the document came. But this document came earlier of this
be. So, they have a two to three days to take some measures. And that document shows -- in Sri Lanka, there's a several police department. So,
that document bent up several police department. So, I think, it's at two, three days before this blast happened.
So, if that document is true -- is that document is accurate, there's a much time to police and defense staff to act and prevent this blast and
prevent this very sad movement. But I will -- I will add that ban. But in the early have as Attorney General Department in Sri Lanka, they had a
special statement. And they said that the document is fake, but what we can take from inside the police, the document is true.
AROSHA: So, we are -- we are -- we are now in the middle of that document, we can say, is it's true or not, but it seems true.
ALLEN: Right, but we know that these churches -- you know, weren't secure, least enough to keep in this tragedy happening. They have made arrests, we
don't know who these terrorists are, who they may be connected with, but we'll be turning to that part of the story next.
We appreciate the information that you've brought to us. Sandun Arosha there in Sri Lanka. Many thanks. Thank you.
All right, we want to take a look at other stories that we're following on this Sunday. And in Northern Ireland, there have been multiple security
alerts and house evacuations after devices were discovered.
Police say there's no link between the incidents in the killing of this journalist you see here, Lyra McKee on Thursday. Two devices have been
declared non-viable, but alerts are ongoing. We have a reporter in the country, we'll continue to follow that story.
Also, polls in Egypt are open for a few more hours on the second day of a major constitutional referendum. If voters approve, the amendments would
allow President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to tighten his grip on power. Critics say the proposals are anti-Democratic. Results expected later this week.
Voting is in its final hours in Ukraine, where a man playing a T.V. president may become the real president. Going into Sunday's election,
comedian turned politician Volodymyr Zelensky was leading in the polls. He's taking on incumbent Petro Poroshenko who has held office since 2014.
Covering this election for us is Phil Black, he is live in Kiev. And we were just seeing a polling place right there.
Phil, I have to ask you because of the interest in this election that there is a comedian running who just may win it. What's been the voter turnout?
What has been the interest as people have gone to the polls?
PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Natalie, just a slight correction, we're no longer in a polling station, we are now at Volodymyr
Zelensky's campaign headquarters for the evening. And it is what you would expect perhaps of a young candidate, an actor, and comedian whose campaign
has really written on the back of slick, online videos, and little else.
It's a former nightclub, there's something music, there's an open bar, games is going to get rowdy here through the night, I think. There is
voting for the next hour also, that's when the polls will close, that's when we'll receive the first exit polling. And that exit polling is
predicted to say that Volodymyr Zelensky has won comfortably. That the next president of Ukraine will be an actor and comedian. Someone who is
famous in this country for pretending to be president on a Ukrainian T.V. show.
In servant of the people, Zelensky plays a character, a regular guy who improbably, accidentally, becomes president. And then goes about fighting
corruption and cleaning up politics in this country.
His campaign has been built pretty much on exactly the same idea with very few details. That he has captured momentum and excitement throughout. He
easily won the first round of voting. He's expected to win easily again tonight and become the next president.
As I say, based upon charisma, a likable smile, but pretty much no detailed policies, pretty much no substantial ideas about precisely how to fix this
country and take it forward.
But there has been enough for many people in this country to decide he should get their vote or, at least, for many people in this country to
decide they do not want to vote for more of the same. When he becomes president, the problems of this country will not go away, he will still
inherit an economy that is fragile in struggling. And an ongoing war against Russian-backed separatists in the east of the country as well.
[11:45:18] ALLEN: You seem to be in the place to be there in Kiev as the votes are tallied. Phil Black for us. Thanks so much, Phil.
Again, back to the Sri Lanka story, we have just received word that five British citizens are among those killed in Sri Lanka in our continued
coverage of the Easter Sunday bombings across that country. Next here, we asked who could be behind these horrible attacks.
ALLEN: You're watching CNN's CONNECT THE WORLD. I'm Natalie Allen. And we appreciate you staying with us because we continue to bring you this
"BREAKING NEWS" from Sri Lanka. As we mentioned, at least 207 dead, 450 wounded after a series of bombings across the country.
The coordinated blast ripped through churches as worshippers gathered for Easter Sunday. Luxury hotels were also targeted. Police say, three
officers were killed. Three of their officers killed during a raid at a house in connection with the attacks. And that at least three suspects
have been arrested so far.
But who are these people who they have taken in custody? And who perhaps were they with? Well, let's talk about that with CNN security analyst
Peter Bergen. Peter, we appreciate you coming on. I want to ask you first when you heard about the scale of this attack in Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka of
all places, what was your thought?
PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, Natalie, you know, let's first of all point out that this is probably one of the most lethal
attacks since 9/11. This is a -- you know, the scale of this attack is very largesse. Secondly, you know, I was -- I remain puzzled by this
attack because there was -- there's been a lot of terrorism in Sri Lanka including suicide bomb bombings, but that's all sort of in the past.
So, you've mentioned earlier on the program that the Civil War came to an end about a decade ago, and the violence is sort of abated. And also the
Tamil Tigers who were the separatist group behind much of the violence in Sri Lanka, you know, they were not attacking Christian churches, they were
attacking government targets, and other targets.
So, the fact that you have Christians targeted on Easter Sunday, the fact that you have luxury hotels catering to foreigners being targeted, you
know, this feels more like the work of ISIS or al-Qaeda or other Islamist terrorist groups that said ISIS has a very little ability to recruit Sri
Lankans. About 40,000 militants from around the world traveled to join ISIS, only 32 it appears came from Sri Lanka, according to Sri Lankan
official in 2016. So, that's a small number.
And when you look at the scale of this attack, Natalie, the eight targets and the coordination -- you know, you're not looking at a -- you know, it's
not a small group of people that carried this out. So, it's a puzzle.
Now, we have had the defense ministers say the religious extremists are involved in this attack. Clearly, they've identified some suspects. And
the Sri Lankan government likely knows a lot more than we do at this point about the identity of the group or groups behind this attack.
[11:50:27] ALLEN: Right. So, there could be ISIS infiltration there. Although, your information is that they've tried and haven't had success
with that. There's also al-Qaeda I guess to consider. And we know, Peter, that everyone was saying when the Caliphate was squashed there in Syria,
that this might mean there might be more global incidents of violence attempted by ISIS, and that could be the situation here, could it not?
BERGEN: It could be, and we were likely to get ISIS claim of responsibility in the next 24-48 hours, which may or may not be true. You
may recall, Natalie, that after the Las Vegas attacks in the United States in 2017 carried out by a gunman whose motives -- motivations remain
obscure, ISIS claimed responsibility for that attack even though it had nothing to do with it. So, ISIS may well claim responsibility, it would --
you know, it's not impossible that it is them, and but it also they've claimed for responsibility for things that they haven't done.
And you know -- you know, you mentioned the fact that as the ISIS Caliphate collapsed, there might be other attacks around the world. I mean, one of
the places that you would least suspected would be Sri Lanka because when you look at the people who have come, 6,000 came from Tunisia to join ISIS,
1,500 came from France to join ISIS.
I mean, the numbers that have joined ISIS from Sri Lanka are really, really tiny compared to those big numbers. So, it's puzzling.
ALLEN: Yes, and this puzzle is as you say is the second as far as the scale and the lives lost that we've seen since 9/11. So, that is a huge
part of this equation here as we try to figure it all out. Peter Bergen, national security analyst. We appreciate your expertise. Thank you.
BERGEN: Thank you, Natalie.
ALLEN: And still to come here on CONNECT THE WORLD. As the death toll rises in Sunday's deadly attacks, we get reaction from the Holy Land on
what is the holiest of days of the Christian calendar.
ALLEN: Before we close out this hour, again, the bombings in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday, that is our focus on this day. Police say that three
officers were killed during a raid in connection with the attacks they had gone to a house that was suspicious. And at least three suspects have been
arrested. The eight blasts went off at churches and luxury hotels across this nation, killing at least, 207 people, 400 -- more than 400 wounded.
On Sunday's blast there, have touched people, as you can imagine, all around the world not the least in the Holy Land. We talked with someone
attending Easter services at Jerusalem's Holy Sepulchre, reacting to the devastating series of attacks a world away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[11:55:16] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now, we are here in Jerusalem. And I heard about what happening in Sri Lanka. I want to pray for the people in Sri
Lanka and all over the world that this act on terrorist, action as stops sometimes, or stop I hopefully soon in future. But I'm only want to say
that I'm praying for them on these holy days.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ALLEN: Thank you for watching CONNECT THE WORLD. I'm Natalie Allen, and I'll be right back with our top story right after this.