About 207 people have been killed and 450 hurt in explosions at churches and hotels in Sri Lanka, the police stated yesterday.
Eight blasts were reported, including at three churches in Negombo, Batticaloa and Colombo’s Kochchikade district during Easter services.
The Shangri-La, Kingsbury and Cinnamon Grand hotels and one other, all in the capital, were also attacked.
A national curfew has been put in place “until further notice” and social media networks have been temporarily blocked.
A foreign ministry official said 27 foreign nationals were among the dead.
Reports said seven people have been arrested, but it is not yet clear who is responsible for the attacks.
The first reports of explosions came about 08:45 (03:15 GMT) local time – with six blasts reported close together at churches and luxury hotels.
St Sebastian’s church in Negombo was severely damaged in one explosion, with dozens killed.
There were also heavy casualties at the site of the first blast in St Anthony’s, a popular shrine in Kochchikade, a district of Colombo.
Robert Tyler, who has lived in Sri Lanka for six years, told said about two of the hotels appeared to have had their restaurants targeted at a busy time for breakfast.
The UK’s High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, James Dauris, said British citizens were caught up in the explosions, but has not confirmed further details.
One Dutch national is among the dead, Foreign Minister Stef Blok said in a statement. Two Turkish citizens were also killed.
A seventh explosion was later reported at a hotel near the zoo in Dehiwala, southern Colombo, with police sources reporting two deaths.
An eighth explosion was reported near the Colombo district of Dematagoda. Reports said a suicide bomber and three people believed to be security personnel were killed during a police raid.
Local media reports that the military have been deployed and security tightened at the country’s main Bandaranaike International Airport.
Colombo resident Usman Ali said there were massive queues as he joined people trying to donate blood.
He said: “Everyone had just one intention and that was to help the victims of the blast, no matter what religion or race they may be. Each person was helping another out in filling forms.”
“Overwhelming response at the National Blood Centre. It’s so overcrowded they cannot control the crowd. Currently they are sending back people who have come after taking down name, contact and blood group. Don’t rush there now go leisurely as the crowd subsides,” Ali tweeted.
There have been rumours of more attacks and people have been told to stay inside their houses and remain calm. But there is some element of panic.
There is a heavy military presence in front of all major state buildings.
President Maithripala Sirisena, in a statement, urged the people to remain calm and support the authorities in their investigations.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe chairs an emergency meeting. He said: “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.”
Announcing the curfew, Defence Minister Ruwan Wijewardane said: “We will take all necessary action against any extremist group that is operating in our country. All the culprits have been identified and would be taken into custody as soon as possible.”
President Muhammadu Buhari, Catholic pontiff Pope Francis and other world leaders yesterday condemned the multiple suicide attacks in Sri Lanka that killed more than 200 people.
They described the early morning attacks as dastardly and cowardly, pledging their solidarity with Sri Lanka people in the elimination of such heinous crimes.
Pope Francis, in his traditional Urbi et Orbi speech at the Vatican, condemned the attacks as “such cruel violence” which had targeted Christians celebrating Easter.
Cardinal Archbishop of Colombo, Malcolm Ranjith, said: “It’s a very difficult and a sad situation for all of us because we never expected such a thing to happen and especially on Easter Sunday.”
UK Prime Minister Theresa May tweeted condolences, saying the “acts of violence against churches and hotels in Sri Lanka are truly appalling”.
US President Donald Trump tweeted “heartfelt condolences for the horrible terrorist attacks”.
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Adapted from The Nation