More Than 200 People Killed in Series of Deadly Church and Hotel Bombings in Sri Lanka
207 people were killed and 450 injured in the attacks, which targeted worshippers and guests in hotels popular with tourists
A series of bombs tore through Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday, killing more than 200 people in churches and popular tourist hotels in and around the island nation’s capital of Colombo.
Six blasts went off simultaneously Sunday morning, targeting Easter mass attendees at St. Anthony’s Shrine in Colombo, the St. Sebastian Catholic Church in nearby Negombo, and the Protestant Zion church in the town of Batticaloa, as well as three luxury hotels, according to CBS News.
“It was a river of blood,” shopkeeper N.A. Sumanapala told the New York Times of the scene inside St. Anthony’s. “Ash was falling like snow. I saw limbs and heads. There were children, too.”
The Shangri-La, a hotel in Colombo, said in a statement on Facebook that an explosion went off in its Table One Restaurant around 9 a.m.
“We are deeply saddened and shocked by the incident and our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the casualties and those who have been affected,” the statement read. “We are working closely with local authorities and emergency services to provide our fullest assistance and support to the affected staff and guests.”
Another hotel, the Cinnamon Grand, also said in a statement that an explosion went off in its ground floor restaurant.
“It is with deep regret that we wish to inform that an explosion occurred in a restaurant located on the ground floor of the Cinnamon Grand Hotel, earlier today,” the Facebook statement read. “Medical evacuation was activated immediately for the injured. The area has been isolated for investigations and security clearance.”
The Kingsbury Hotel was also hit, and two people were killed later in the day after a bomb went off at the Tropical Inn hotel in the suburb of Dehiwala, according to the New York Times.
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The Times reports that another explosion at a housing complex in the suburb of Dematagoda killed three police officers as they tried to apprehend suspects.
Defense Minister Ruwan Wijewardene said at a news briefing that seven suspects have so far been arrested, and that the bombs were part of a terrorist attack by religious extremists, according to CBS News. No one has claimed responsibility for the attacks, though authorities believe the suspects to be part of a single group.
At least 207 people were killed and 450 wounded in the string of attacks, police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekara said, according to the Times.
The government has since imposed a nationwide curfew from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., while social media and messaging services like Facebook and WhatsApp have reportedly been temporarily blocked so as not to spread misinformation.
Sri Lanka’s civil war, in which rebel groups from the ethnic Tamil minority sought independence from the ethnic Sinhala Buddhist majority, ended in 2009 after nearly three decades.
CNN reports that less than 10 percent of Sri Lankans are Christian, while 70.2 percent identify as Buddhist, 12 percent Hindu, 9.7 percent Muslim and 7.4 percent Christian.
Pope Francis called the attacks “horrendous” in his Easter Sunday address, according to the Washington Post.
“I entrust to the Lord all who so tragically died, and I pray for the wounded and all those who suffer because of this traumatic event,” Francis said.
Sri Lanka Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe issued a statement on Twitter, writing that he “strongly” condemned the “cowardly attacks.”
“I strongly condemn the cowardly attacks on our people today. I call upon all Sri Lankans during this tragic time to remain united and strong,” he wrote. “Please avoid propagating unverified reports and speculation. The government is taking immediate steps to contain this situation.”
President Donald Trump also weighed in, tweeting: “138 people have been killed in Sri Lanka, with more that 600 badly injured, in a terrorist attack on churches and hotels. The United States offers heartfelt condolences to the great people of Sri Lanka. We stand ready to help!”