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More than 207 people died and hundreds more injured after six nearly simultaneous explosions struck three churches and three luxury hotels in and just outside of Sri Lanka’s capital on Easter Sunday. They were followed hours later by two more blasts.
An inside view of the St. Anthony’s Shrine after an explosion hit St Anthony’s Church in Kochchikade in Colombo, Sri Lanka on April 21, 2019. (Photo by Chamila Karunarathne/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
A spokesperson for the Sri Lanka police said 207 people died and 450 injured in the series of blasts – marking the bloodshed as among the worst since the South Asian country’s 26-year civil war ended a decade ago
Multiple fatalities – including nearly a dozen foreigners – resulted among worshipers and hotel guests. With a curfew imposed, police conducted a search operation on the outskirts of Colombo, where that the latest of eight blasts took place.
Defense Minister Ruwan Wijewardena, who described the attacks as a terrorist incident and blamed religious extremists, said Sunday evening that seven suspects have been arrested. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said he feared the violence could trigger instability in the country and its economy.
The first explosion occurred around 8:45 a.m. local time, with the deadliest appearing to be at St. Sebastian’s Church in Negombo, a city about 20 miles north of Colombo. Other attacks occurred at St. Anthony’s Shrine in Colombo and Zion Church in the eastern city of Batticaloa. The three hotels – the Shangri La, Cinnamon Grand and Kingsbury Hotel – all in Colombo are frequented by foreign tourists.
Sri Lankan Army soldiers secure the area around St. Anthony’s Shrine after a blast in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Sunday, April 21, 2019 (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)
The other two blasts occurred in Dematagoda, where the occupants of a safehouse apparently detonated explosives to prevent arrest.
An official told the Associated Press that at least two of the church blasts were believed to have been coordinated attack carried out by suicide bombers.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for Sunday’s blasts.
“The United States offers heartfelt condolences to the great people of Sri Lanka,” U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted in part early Sunday. “We stand ready to help!”
Photos from the scene showed extensive damage, along with blood and debris inside the targeted churches.
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!69.6K5:20 AM – Apr 21, 2019Twitter Ads info and privacy23K people are talking about this
U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka Alaina Teplitz offered her condolences over Twitter early Sunday.
“Deeply saddened by the senseless attacks in Sri Lanka today. Our thoughts are with the victims and their families. We stand with Sri Lanka’s people at this terrible moment,” she tweeted.