Sri Lanka explosions: More than 200 killed as churches and hotels targeted

Sri Lanka explosions




At least 207 people have been killed and 450 hurt in explosions at churches and hotels in Sri Lanka, police say.

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 targeted.

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 say seven people have been arrested, but it not yet clear who is responsible for the attacks.

Sri Lanka's defence minister has said the attacks were probably carried out by one group.


What's the latest from the scene?

The first reports of explosions came at 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 at the site.

Images from inside showed blood on the pews and the building's ceiling shattered.

There were also heavy casualties at the site of the first blast in St Anthony's, a hugely popular shrine in Kochchikade, a district of Colombo.

Robert Tyler, who has lived in Sri Lanka for six years, told the BBC that at least 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 has 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 have also been killed, state news agency Anadolu reports.


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. Media say it was suicide bomber and that three people, believed to be security personnel, were killed during a police raid.

Local media report that the military and have been deployed, and security has been stepped up at the country's main Bandaranaike International Airport.

Colombo resident Usman Ali told the BBC 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."



Rumours have been reported of more attacks and police have told people 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. No-one was expecting this, it was a peaceful Sunday morning - everyone was going to Easter services.


Priests at St Anthony's Shrine in Kochchikade

I've spoken to several priests who were in the church and they were really shocked, as were the police officers.

It was a well-planned, co-ordinated attack but I spoke to the security chief who was there and officials believe it's too early to say who is behind it.

After the Tamil Tigers were defeated in 2009, Sri Lanka hasn't really seen this kind of incident.

What have officials said?

President Maithripala Sirisena has issued a statement calling for people to remain calm and support the authorities in their investigations.

PM Ranil Wickremesinghe is chairing 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."

He also said that "all the culprits" had been identified and would be "taken into custody as soon as possible".


A statue of the Virgin Mary, broken in St Anthony's Shrine

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, told the BBC: "It's a very difficult and a very sad situation for all of us because we never expected such a thing to happen and especially on Easter Sunday."


UK PM 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".

What's Sri Lanka's recent history?

In the years since the end of Sri Lanka's civil war in 2009, there has been some sporadic violence, with members of the majority Buddhist Sinhala community attacking mosques and Muslim-owned properties. That led to a state of emergency being declared in March 2018.

The civil war ended with the defeat of the Tamil Tigers, who had fought for 26 years for an independent homeland for the minority ethnic Tamils. The war is thought to have killed between 70,000 and 80,000 people.

Religion in Sri Lanka

Theravada Buddhism is Sri Lanka's biggest religion, making up about 70.2% of the population, according to the most recent census.

It is the religion of Sri Lanka's Sinhalese majority. It is given primary place in the country's laws and is singled out in the constitution.

Hindus and Muslims make up 12.6% and 9.7% of the population respectively.

Sri Lanka is also home to about 1.5 million Christians, according to the 2012 census, the vast majority of them Roman Catholic.

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