News, Culture & Society

Foreign Office prepares for mass exodus of Britons from Sri Lanka after warning country is not safe

Amy Goodman of her with Ross Kernan, who are rearranging their honeymoon in the wake of the new Foreign Office advice

Thousands of British tourists were scrambling to flee Sri Lanka last night after the Foreign Office warned it was no longer safe.

With the mastermind of the Easter massacre still on the loose, the guidance for holidaymakers was updated to warn against ‘all but essential travel’. 

Officials are braced for a mass evacuation. There are 8,000 Britons currently visiting the country. Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt acted after being told another attack was ‘very likely’.

This has left a host of engaged couples scrambling to make new honeymoon plans. They are being urged to contact airlines, tour operators and insurers for more information.   

Amy Goodman, a doctor from Armagh, Northern Ireland, had been due to stay at Colombo’s Cinnamon Grand hotel, one of the sites that was hit in the bombings, with her fiance Ross Kernan as part of their honeymoon in June.

They are now working with their travel agent to cut Sri Lanka out of their itinerary completely. 

Ms Goodman, 27, and her fiance had been planning the trip for over two years, and she had taken on extra shifts at the hospital where she works to pay for the holiday.

But she said they were ‘some of the lucky ones’ and that going there now would not be the same. 

She said: ‘It just wouldn’t have felt right – the eeriness, and of course the tragedy for the Sri Lankans as well, we felt we couldn’t do it.’ 

Abigail McKie with her fiance Alisdair Smith, who they are facing the prospect of rearranging their entire honeymoon

Abigail McKie with her fiance Alisdair Smith, who they are facing the prospect of rearranging their entire honeymoon

Abigail McKie, a specialist support worker from Doncaster, was due to travel to the country for a honeymoon in June with her fiance Alisdair Smith, but they are facing the prospect of rearranging the entire trip. 

The couple had saved up £5,000 for a tour of Sri Lanka, with stops including Colombo, Kandy and the country’s Cultural Triangle, with a particular focus on seeing wildlife.  

But Ms McKie, 24, said she understood why the Foreign Office had changed its advice and that they had ‘done the right thing’. 

‘They’re just trying to keep everyone safe and honestly my heart goes out to anyone that’s out there already or that was meant to be going sooner than we are,’ she said. 

The Islamic State atrocity on Easter Sunday killed hundreds including eight Britons, and injured more than 500.

Abdul Lathief Jameel Mohammed (right), as boy. He has been named as the British educated suicide bomber in the Sri Lankan Terror attack

Abdul Lathief Jameel Mohammed (right), as boy. He has been named as the British educated suicide bomber in the Sri Lankan Terror attack

Suicide bombers including Abdul Lathief Jameel Mohamed, who studied at Kingston University in Surrey, calmly walked into churches and luxury hotels to unleash carnage. Pictures emerged yesterday of Mohamed as an innocent boy. 

Hate preacher Moulvi Zahran Hashim, mastermind of the bloodbath, was initially thought to have been one of the nine maniacs who blew themselves up. But security services in Sri Lanka now fear he slipped away to plot more mayhem.

The authorities are still finding bombs. Another one was detonated yesterday in the town of Pugoda. No one was hurt.

Unverified messages circulating yesterday claimed IS was planning another bombing in the next 24 hours. The warnings claimed a bomb big enough to destroy a suburb was primed to explode.

Hashim, who radicalised up to 3,000 with his hate-filled sermons from 2017, is feared to have gone to ground with his family. His sister Madaniya, 25, said: ‘I don’t want anything to do with him, and I hope he is dead.’

The Colombo government has drafted in 7,000 troops for the manhunt, and the country was put under a curfew for the fifth evening last night.

In Whitehall, the Ministry of Defence said it was ready to help the British evacuation if requested by the Foreign Office, but military sources said at present they were not expecting to be needed.

Tour companies including TUI have started contacting customers to change their flights home, while the Foreign Office advised holidaymakers travelling independently: ‘You should make your own arrangements to leave.’

Mr Hunt said: ‘My first priority will always be the security of British citizens. I have received updated advice from the Foreign Office and decided to update the travel advice to British nationals to Sri Lanka to advise against all but essential travel.’

If tourists ignore the advice and travel anyway, they are likely to invalidate their travel insurance policies. Independent holidaymakers will likely have to pay for new flights home themselves.

The Association of British Travel Agents said: ‘Customers due to travel imminently to the island on package holidays will be offered options of deferring their date of travel, transferring to another destination or a full refund.’

The former home of Abdul Lathief Jameel Mohammed in Colombo, Sri Lanka. He tried target the Taj Hotel, Colombo, but after failing to detonate there instead found a small guesthouse

The former home of Abdul Lathief Jameel Mohammed in Colombo, Sri Lanka. He tried target the Taj Hotel, Colombo, but after failing to detonate there instead found a small guesthouse 

The death toll from Sunday’s attacks is about 100 fewer than the 359 originally thought, a Sri Lankan health official said yesterday. Anil Jasinghe said: ‘It could be 250 or 260. I can’t exactly say. There are so many body parts and it is difficult to give a precise figure.’

It was also claimed that the bombers took their orders directly from Syria. Despite IS having been supposedly vanquished there, the death squad ‘took their instructions from Syria’, said Indian intelligence officers who intercepted the messages.

Wealthy brothers Inshaf and Ilham Ibrahim  - sons of a millionaire spice trader - are two of nine jihadis who carried out the devastating bomb attacks in Sri Lanka. They are believed to be pictured here alongside National Thawheed Jamaath leader Moulvi Zahran Hashim, who is still at large

Wealthy brothers Inshaf and Ilham Ibrahim  – sons of a millionaire spice trader – are two of nine jihadis who carried out the devastating bomb attacks in Sri Lanka. They are believed to be pictured here alongside National Thawheed Jamaath leader Moulvi Zahran Hashim, who is still at large

Meanwhile Mohamed’s wife, Shifana, described her ‘complete shock’ at discovering her husband, 36, was one of the killers. The 30-year-old added: ‘It is hard to take in what he has done.’

The wealthy father of four, who owned an impressive property portfolio, studied aerospace engineering at Kingston from 2006 to 2007. It was the year hate preacher Shakeel Begg lectured students at the campus to ‘make jihad’.

Mohamed travelled to Melbourne in Australia for a postgraduate course where his obsession with extremism grew.

Relatives said he returned with a long beard and a ‘serious attitude’, unrecognisable from photos of him enjoying an idyllic childhood, smiling with friends as he played with animals. Mohamed’s wife, a former biology student, said: ‘He was a loving father to our four children and he just went off as usual to the mosque last Friday, but we never saw him again.

‘He has left his young children behind. It is hard to take in what he has done. I had no idea he would do this until the police turned up at my door. I was in complete shock.’

The couple married ten years ago and have three sons and a daughter all under the age of eight. Their youngest, a son, is just six months.

Mohamed’s sister Samsul Hidaya said he had lived a typically middle-class existence until his return from studying overseas. ‘My brother became deeply, deeply religious while he was in Australia,’ she said. ‘He came back to Sri Lanka a different man.

‘He had a long beard and had lost his sense of humour. He became serious and withdrawn and would not even smile at anyone he didn’t know, let alone laugh.’

Mohamed’s 23-year-old nephew added: ‘We are really, really ashamed of what he has done.

‘It is such a shock and the lives of so many innocent people have been affected.’ 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


Comments are closed.