Sri Lanka Cardinal: Terrorists Are ‘Animals,’ Must Be ‘Punished Mercilessly’

Sri Lanka's newly appointed Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church, Father Malcolm Ranjith, arrives at the felicitation ceremony in Colombo on December 6, 2010. Christians account for about 7.5 percent of Sri Lanka's 20 million people. AFP PHOTO/Ishara S. KODIKARA (Photo credit should read Ishara S.KODIKARA/AFP/Getty Images)

Sri Lanka’s highest-ranking Catholic prelate called on the government to hunt down the attackers behind the lethal bombings that killed nearly 300 people Sunday and to “punish them mercilessly.”

“I would 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,” said Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, the archbishop of Colombo.

Ranjith expressed his “deepest sorrow and sympathy” for those affected by the attacks, while advising against vigilante actions.

“I ask all our Sri Lankan people not to take the law into their own hands and to maintain peace and harmony in this country,” he said.

The Easter Sunday massacre took place at six locations – three churches and three hotels – and involved seven suicide bombers, but police believe that a number of other conspirators helped plan and execute the attacks. So far, 24 suspects have been apprehended in connection with the killings.

In Rome, Pope Francis called for a universal condemnation of the “inhuman” suicide bombings, offering prayers and condolences.

“I would hope that all will condemn these inhuman terrorist acts, which are never justifiable,” the pope told crowds gathered in Saint Peter’s Square for his Regina Caeli message Monday, adding that he is praying for “the great many victims and wounded” while also asking all nations to “not hesitate to offer all the assistance necessary to that dear nation.”

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