A view of St Sebastian’s Church damaged in a blast in Negombo, north of Colombo, on Sunday | Photo: Reuters
Three Indians were among at least 215 people killed in bomb blasts that ripped through churches and luxury hotels in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday, the first major attack on the Indian Ocean island since the end of a civil war 10 years ago. The number of injured has been pegged at around 500.
Seven people were arrested and three police officers were killed during a security forces raid on a house in the Sri Lankan capital several hours after the rash of attacks, some of which officials said were suicide bombs.
The government declared a curfew in Colombo and blocked access to social media and messaging sites, including Facebook and WhatsApp. It was unclear when the curfew would be lifted. “Altogether, we have information of 207 dead from all hospitals. We have 450 injured admitted to hospitals,” police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera told reporters.
Three churches in various parts of the country and four hotels in Colombo were hit. At least 27 of the dead were foreigners, including people from Turkey, China, India, and Holland, officials and media reports 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, a time when bomb blasts in the capital were common.
Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremsinghe acknowledged the government had some “prior information of the attack”, though ministers were not told. He said there wasn’t an adequate response and there needed to be an inquiry into how the information was used.
Dozens were killed in one of the blasts at St Sebastian’s Gothic-style Catholic church in Katuwapitiya, north of Colombo. Gunasekera said the police suspected a suicide attack there. Local media reported 25 people were also killed in an attack on an evangelical church in Batticaloa in Eastern Province.
The hotels hit in Colombo were the Shangri-La, the Kingsbury, the Cinnamon Grand, and the Tropical Inn near the national zoo. One of the explosions was at St. Anthony’s Shrine, a Catholic church in Kochchikade, Colombo, a tourist landmark.