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US secretary of state visits Sri Lankan church

Mike Pompeo pays tribute to Easter Sunday attack victims during two-day trip to island nation

UCA News reporter, Colombo

UCA News reporter, Colombo

Published: October 29, 2020 06:27 AM GMT

Updated: October 29, 2020 06:40 AM GMT

US secretary of state visits Sri Lankan church

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his wife Susan visit St. Anthony's Church on Oct. 28. (Photo: AFP)

United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has visited attacked St. Anthony's Church in Sri Lanka to pay tribute to Easter Sunday victims.

The Trump's administration's highest-ranking official to visit Sri Lanka said five Americans were among hundreds of victims of the attacks.

"Today, I laid a wreath at the Shrine of St. Anthony, one of the sites of the 2019 Easter attacks which killed and injured hundreds of innocent people," Pompeo tweeted before heading for the Maldives on Oct. 28.

"We stand with the Sri Lankan people and the world to defeat violent extremism and bring perpetrators to justice."

Addressing a press conference with the Sri Lankan foreign minister on Oct. 28, Pompeo said: "I am proud that the State Department has offered substantial counterterrorism assistance to help Sri Lanka bring the killers of Americans and their own people to justice. These Easter Sunday attacks represent the kind of sectarianism that Sri Lankans are ready to leave behind forever." 

St. Anthony's Church in Kochchikade, Colombo, was one of the three churches targeted by suicide bombers on April 21, 2019.

The church was reopened for the feast of St. Anthony of Padua 87 days after the blast, which killed at least 93 people.

Seven suicide bomb attacks were launched at two Catholic churches in Negombo and Colombo and one evangelical church in Batticaloa in the eastern part of the country between 8.45am and 9.30am on Easter Sunday.

Some 32 children in Katuwapitiya were killed and 14 families were left with no parents.

A group of nine suicide bombers affiliated to local Islamist extremist group National Thowheed Jamath targeted three Christian churches and three luxury hotels, killing at least 279 people including 37 foreign nationals.

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Pompeo slammed China's communist government for violating sovereignty on land and at sea while addressing a press conference during a trip to boost ties with Sri Lanka.

"The Chinese Communist Party is a predator. The United States comes as a friend and partner," Pompeo told reporters on a two-day visit to Sri Lanka.

He said the US wants to take its partnership with Sri Lanka forward based on democratic values.

The country borrowed billions of dollars from China to improve infrastructure facilities during former president Mahinda Rajapaksa's tenure from 2005-15.

"A strong sovereign Sri Lanka is a powerful strategic partner for the US on the world stage. We want the people of Sri Lanka to have sovereignty and independence. We want them to be successful and have sustainable development," said Pompeo.

Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena said that as a sovereign, free, independent nation Sri Lanka's foreign policy will remain neutral, non-aligned and friendly.

US President Donald Trump nominated Pompeo as secretary of state in 2018. He is a politician, diplomat, businessman and attorney. He is a former US army officer and was director of the Central Intelligence Agency from January 2017 to April 2018.

The Chinese embassy in Sri Lanka criticized Pompeo on the same day by tweeting a promotional image for the Aliens vs Predator video game.

"Sorry, Mr. Secretary Pompeo, we are busy promoting China-Sri Lanka friendship and cooperation, not interested in your Alien vs Predator game invitation," said the embassy.

The embassy also accused Pompeo of trying to coerce and bully Sri Lanka with his visit.

China supported Sri Lanka in the UN vote against the allegations of human rights violations in the final stage of the country's civil war, which left at least 100,000 people dead.

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