At least 160 people are dead in an Easter Sunday terrorist attack targeting Christians in Sri Lanka after eight explosions ripped through high-end hotels and churches as suspected suicide bombers blew themselves up.
The initial six explosions injured as many as 500 people, including Japanese and British citizens, and 35 foreigners – from the UK, US, Netherlands and Portugal – are among the dead, sources say.
The first blasts hit three high-end hotels and a church in Colombo, while two other churches were targeted outside Colombo during Easter Mass, Sri Lanka police told news agency AFP. Hours later, another explosion took place at a hotel opposite the national zoo in the Dehiwala area near Colombo.
The nature of the explosions, which happened at around 8:45 am local time, was not immediately clear and there were no immediate claims of responsibility.
Reports now indicate a Eighth explosion in the southern Colombo suburb of Dehiwala – which killed two people – and an eighth in the northern suburb of Orugodawatta.
— Ozix.i (@ozix_i) April 21, 2019
Sri Lanka’s defence ministry has now ordered curfew with immediate effect ‘until further notice’, and the Sri Lankan government said it had shut down access to social media messaging services, sources say.
Two of the blasts were suspected to have been carried out by suicide bombers, according to one security official, who spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorised to speak with reporters.
How shocking to know who is safe frm terrorism in the non-muslim world. The world should sit together to fight terror with iron hands. Almost 200 casualties in bomb blasts on several churchs in Sri Lanka. We pray for the dead and injured.#SrilankaBlast #SriLankaBlasts#SriLanka pic.twitter.com/L28OSGpxc1
— Shahid Nadeem PK (@shahidboss4U) April 21, 2019
The three hotels hit were the Shangri-La Colombo, Kingsbury Hotel in Colombo and the Cinnamon Grand Colombo.
— Priya Nashmikar (@PriyaNashmikar) April 21, 2019
The first blasts were reported at St Anthony’s Church in Colombo and St Sebastian’s in the town of Negombo just outside the capital, with another reported at Zion Church in the eastern town of Batticaloa.
An official at the Batticaloa hospital said 300 people had been admitted with injuries following the blast there.
Local TV showed damage at the Cinnamon Grand, Shangri-La and Kingsbury hotels.
The explosion ripped off the roof and knocked out doors and windows at St. Sebastian’s, where people carried the wounded away from blood-stained pews, local TV footage showed.
Pray For Sri Lanka ?? ?
Stay Safe Sri Lanka❗
101 dead and over 200 injured and hospitalized following 6 blasts in churches and hotels in Sri Lanka – Hospital sources #LKA #SriLanka #EasterSundayAttacksLK #Colombo #PrayForSriLanka #EasterAttackSL pic.twitter.com/ns8A27rsRD
— Sri Lanka Tweet ?? (@SriLankaTweet) April 21, 2019
Sri Lankan security officials said they were investigating. Police immediately sealed off the areas.
The magnitude of the violence recalls the bombings perpetrated by the separatist Tamil Tigers that targeted a bank, a shopping centre, a Buddhist temple and hotels popular with tourists a decade ago.
— Kavinthan s (@Kavinthans) April 21, 2019
No one has claimed responsibility for the latest blasts.
In 2009 Sri Lankan security forces defeated Tamil Tiger rebels who had fought to create an independent homeland for the country’s ethnic minority Tamils.
The UN initially estimated the death toll from 26 years of fighting to be about 100,000 but a UN experts’ panel later said some 45,000 ethnic Tamils may have been killed in the last months of the fighting alone.
According to reports, Sri Lanka’s police chief made a nationwide alert 10 days before Sunday’s bomb attacks in the country that suicide bombers planned to hit ‘prominent churches’.