US, Canada issue travel advisories to citizens travelling to Lanka

Colombo: The US and Canada have issued travel advisories to their citizens seeking to visit Sri Lanka, citing threats of terrorism, a day after the calm of Easter Sunday was shattered by gruesome bombings targeting the country’s churches and hotels that killed at least 290 people.

According to advisories, travellers should exercise a high degree of caution in Sri Lanka due the current security situation. The US Embassy said terrorists may attack with little or no warning targeting tourist locations, transportation hubs, markets/shopping malls, local government facilities, hotels, clubs, restaurants, places of worship, parks, major sporting and cultural events, educational institutions, airports and other public areas.

The US citizens travelling to or residing in Sri Lanka were advised to enrol in the Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) in order to receive the latest security updates, the Sunday Times reported.

The situation remains volatile in Sri Lanka after eight explosions rocked churches and luxury hotels, killing up to 290 people, including six Indians, and with over 500 sustaining injures. The Canadian government also issued a travel advisory to its nationals.

“The decision to travel is your choice and you are responsible for your personal safety abroad,” the advisory said. “We take the safety and security of Canadians abroad very seriously and provide credible and timely information in our Travel Advice to enable you to make well-informed decisions regarding your travel abroad,” it said.

The death toll Monday sharply rose to 290, including six Indians, from the blasts – the worst terror attack in the country’s history. There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but police on Monday arrested 24 people and declined to give further details.

The government has said it will not disclose the details of the suspects involved in the attacks to prevent them from getting publicity. The blasts – the deadliest attacks in the country’s history – shattered a decade of peace in the island nation since the end of the brutal civil war with the LTTE.

Sri Lanka’s bloody 30-year civil war waged between the government forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in the north ended in 2009 with the defeat of the separatist forces. The island is home to around 1.5 million Christians, the vast majority Roman Catholic.

The Singhalese majority are Buddhist – comprising around 70 per cent of the population – besides sizeable Hindu and Muslim populations.

Agency