Explosions in Sri Lanka: updates
321 people were killed and 500 injured in a series of explosions in and around Colombo, Sri Lanka, on April 21, 2019. A police spokesman said that there were blasts at three hotels, including Shangri-La and Kingsbury, and three churches as people gathered for Easter services. No one has taken responsibility for the attacks yet.
There were six suicide bombers involved in the explosions that killed at least 290 people across Sri Lanka on Sunday, according to Sri Lanka military spokesman Sumith Atapattu.
The Sri Lankan government has admitted it failed to act on multiple warnings before a coordinated series of attacks ripped through churches and hotels on Easter Sunday, and said it feared an international terror group might have been behind the atrocities.
A US official directly familiar with the US initial intelligence assessment said the group responsible for the attacks was inspired by ISIS. No group has yet claimed responsibility.
Sri Lanka said on Monday it was invoking emergency powers in the aftermath of devastating bomb attacks on hotels and churches, blamed on militants with foreign links, in which 290 people were killed and nearly 500 wounded.
The emergency law, which gives police and the military extensive powers to detain and interrogate suspects without court orders, will go into effect at midnight on Monday, the president’s office said.
Police said 87 bomb detonators were found at the city’s main bus station, while an explosive went off near a church where scores were killed on Sunday when bomb squad officials were trying to defuse it.
A night curfew will go into effect at 8 p.m., the government announced.
There was no claim of responsibility for the attack but suspicion was focusing on Islamist militants in the Buddhist-majority country.
At least 39 tourists were killed in the Sri Lanka bombings on Easter Sunday, the country’s tourism minister said on Monday.
John Amaratunga, the minister of tourism, wildlife and Christian religious affairs, also confirmed 28 tourists are currently receiving hospital treatment following the attacks.
A suicide bomber killed three people in central Colombo, AFP reported, citing police.
This adds to the seven explosions that have rocked three packed Catholic shrines and four high-end hotels in Sri Lanka so far on Sunday, as the island’s Christian worshippers were gathering for Easter masses.
COLOMBO, April 21 (Reuters)
Sri Lankan police on Sunday reported there had been a seventh explosion, the fourth at a hotel, following six reported at hotels and churches earlier in the day that killed nearly 140 people.
The latest explosion to be reported was at a hotel near the national zoo, which is in an area near the capital Colombo.
“There was an explosion in a hotel in Dehiwela near the zoo,” a police official told Reuters adding that there were no further details available.
An eyewitness on local TV said he saw some body parts including a severed head lying on the ground near the hotel. Zoo officials declared the zoo closed after the blast. (Reporting by Shihar Aneez and Ranga Sirilal Editing by Martin Howell)
Easter Day bomb blasts at three Sri Lankan churches and three luxury hotels killed 138 people and wounded more than 400, hospital and police officials said, following a lull in major attacks since the end of the civil war 10 years ago.
In just one church, St. Sebastian’s in Katuwapitiya, north of Colombo, more than 50 people had been killed, a police official told Reuters, with pictures showing bodies on the ground, blood on the pews and a destroyed roof.
Media reported 25 people were also killed in an attack on a church in Batticaloa in Eastern Province.
The three hotels hit were the Shangri-La Colombo, Kingsbury Hotel and Cinnamon Grand Colombo. It was unclear whether there were any casualties in the hotels.
Nine foreigners were among the dead, the officials said.
There were no immediate claims of responsibility for the attacks in a country which was at war for decades with Tamil separatists until 2009 during which bomb blasts in the capital were common.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe called a national security council meeting at his home for later in the day.
“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 said in a Tweet.
“Please avoid propagating unverified reports and speculation. The government is taking immediate steps to contain this situation.” One of the explosions was at St Anthony’s Church in Kochcikade, Colombo.
St. Sebastian’s church posted pictures of destruction inside the church on its Facebook page, showing blood on pews and the floor, and requested help from the public.
Last year, there were 86 verified incidents of discrimination, threats and violence against Christians, according to the National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka (NCEASL), which represents more than 200 churches and other Christian organisations.
This year, the NCEASL recorded 26 such incidents, including one in which Buddhist monks allegedly attempted to disrupt a Sunday worship service, with the last one reported on March 25.
Out of Sri Lanka’s total population of around 22 million, 70 percent are Buddhist, 12.6 percent Hindu, 9.7 percent Muslim, and 7.6 percent Christian, according to the country’s 2012 census.
In its 2018 report on Sri Lanka’s human rights, the U.S. State Department noted that some Christian groups and churches reported they had been pressured to end worship activities after authorities classified them as “unauthorized gatherings.”
The report also said Buddhist monks regularly tried to close down Christian and Muslim places of worship, citing unidentified sources. (Reporting by Ranga Sirilal and Shihar Aneez; Edited by Martin Howell and Nick Macfie)