A string of blasts hit high-end hotels and churches in Sri Lanka this morning, injuring hundreds of people as worshippers attended Easter services in a ‘coordinated, targeted attack on Christians’.
The death toll has risen to at least 137 people, including nine foreigners, as six near-simultaneous blasts injured more than 500 across the country, reports from Colombo indicate.
Two of the blasts were suspected to have been carried out by suicide bombers, according to one security official, who spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorised to speak with reporters.
The official said at least 45 people had been killed in Colombo, where three hotels and a church were hit, along with another 67 were in the church attack in Negombo, north of the capital, with another 25 dead at a church in the town of Batticaloa, in the east of the country.
President Maithripala Sirisena said he was shocked by the explosions and appealed for calm.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe wrote on Twitter: ‘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.’
Foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt said he was shocked by the attacks in Sri Lanka, tweeting: ‘I’m deeply shocked and saddened by the horrifying attacks on churches and hotels in Sri Lanka today.
‘To target those gathered for worship on Easter Sunday is particularly wicked.
‘My prayers are with the victims and their families, and with those assisting in the response.’
The first blasts were reported at St Anthony’s Church in Colombo and St Sebastian’s in the town of Negombo just outside the capital, with another reported at Zion Church in the eastern town of Batticaloa.
An official at the Batticaloa hospital said 300 people had been admitted with injuries following the blast there.
Local TV showed damage at the Cinnamon Grand, Shangri-La and Kingsbury hotels.
The explosion ripped off the roof and knocked out doors and windows at St. Sebastian’s, where people carried the wounded away from blood-stained pews, local TV footage showed.
Sri Lankan security officials said they were investigating. Police immediately sealed off the areas.
Sri Lanka’s police chief made a nationwide alert 10 days before Sunday’s bomb attacks in the country that suicide bombers planned to hit ‘prominent churches’, according to a warning seen by reporters.
More to follow…