Aussie home minister lays wreath at bombed Sri Lanka church

June 3, 2019
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Australian Home Minister Peter Dutton, right, talks with Catholic priest Shameera Rodrigo during his visit to the St. Sebastian's church, one of the sites of Easter Sunday attacks in Negombo, Sri Lanka, Monday, June 3, 2019. More than 250 people were killed in coordinated suicide bomb attacks at three churches and three tourist hotels on Easter Sunday that were claimed by the Islamic State group and carried out by a local radicalized Muslim group. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)

NEGOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — Australian Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton laid a wreath and offered condolences Monday for the Easter Sunday suicide bomb attacks in Sri Lanka during a visit to the South Asian island nation.

Dutton visited St. Sebastian’s Church in the seaside town of Negombo, one of three churches attacked on April 21. He laid the wreath at the altar of St. Sebastian church, where 113 people were killed. Bombings at three churches and three hotels left 257 people dead overall.

Before laying the wreath, Dutton spoke with priests and observed the reconstruction of the church, where two Australians of Sri Lankan origin were among those killed.

Dutton told reporters that he extends formal condolences on behalf of the people and the government of Australia, calling the blasts an “evil attack, particularly on a place of worship.”

“All of us condemn any act of violence regardless of the perpetrators’ religion or their background,” he said.

Dutton will meet with Sri Lanka’s prime minister and other officials during a two-day visit that ends Tuesday.

He also promised Australia’s support to help rebuild Sri Lanka’s tourism industry, which has crashed after the attacks.

Shameera Rodrigo, a priest at the church, said renovation work would be completed by the end of this month. The exact place on the church’s floor where the bomber blew himself up will be covered with glass and preserved as a monument, he said.

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