A series of eight devastating bomb blasts ripped through high-end hotels and churches holding Easter services in Sri Lanka on Sunday, killing 207 people, including dozens of foreigners. Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe condemned the attacks – the worst act of violence since the end of Sri Lanka’s civil war a decade ago – as “cowardly”, as the government imposed an immediate and indefinite curfew across the entire country of 21 million people.
The powerful blasts – six in quick succession and then two more hours later – left hundreds injured and wrought devastation, including at the capital’s well-known St Anthony’s Shrine, a historic Catholic Church.
Eight people suspected of having links with the terror attacks have been arrested, Sri Lanka’s Defence Minister Ruwan Wijewardene said, adding “most the attacks were carried out by suicide bombers”.
At least two of the explosions were carried out by suicide bombers, police sources and a hotel official told news agency AFP, and police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera said the authorities were investigating whether suicide attackers were involved in all eight of them.
Mr Gunasekera told reporters the number of dead had risen to 207, with over 450 people injured. Ravinatha Aryasinha, secretary to the foreign ministry, told reporters there were 27 bodies of suspected foreign nationals in the Colombo National Hospital.
A police officer earlier said 35 foreigners were among the dead and hospital sources told AFP that British, Dutch and American citizens had been killed, with Britons and Japanese also injured. A Portuguese man also died, the country’s LUSA news agency reported.
Sri Lanka’s Minister of Economic Reforms and Public Distribution, Harsha de Silva, said he had been to two of the attacked hotels and was at the scene at St Anthony’s, where he described “horrible scenes”. “I saw many body parts strewn all over,” he tweeted, adding that there were “many casualties including foreigners”. “Please stay calm and indoors,” he told AFP.
There were no immediate claims of responsibility for the blasts, but documents seen by AFP show that Sri Lanka’s police chief Pujuth Jayasundara issued an intelligence alert to top officers 10 days ago, warning that suicide bombers planned to hit “prominent churches”. “A foreign intelligence agency has reported that the NTJ (National Thowheeth Jama’ath) is planning to carry out suicide attacks targeting prominent churches as well as the Indian high commission in Colombo,” AFP reported quoting the alert.
The Sri Lankan Prime Minister appealed to citizens to stay strong and united. “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. Please avoid propagating unverified reports and speculation. The government is taking immediate steps to contain this situation,” he tweeted.
The Sri Lanka government also called an emergency meeting after the blasts. “Emergency meeting called in a few minutes. Rescue operations underway,” the Minister of Economic Reforms and Public Distribution, Harsha de Silva, said in a tweet.
Source – NDTV