8 Nearly Simultaneous Explosions Rock Sri Lanka as Islamist Attacks on Christians Claim 200+ Lives
Sri Lankan officials say the death toll in eight bomb blasts that struck in and just outside of the capital, Colombo, on Easter Sunday has climbed to 207, with 450 others injured and that seven suspects have been arrested.
The foreign minister says at least 27 foreigners were among those killed and that two police officers were killed during an operation to capture suspects from a safehouse in Dematagoda, the area outside Colombo where the eighth blast occurred.
At least three churches, three luxury hotels and a guesthouse were among the targets of the attacks.
No one has taken responsibility for the attacks.
Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok says a Dutch national is among the dead after a series of blasts in Sri Lanka.
Blok in a Twitter posts gives no details and says he is “horrified by the terrible attacks.”
The British high commissioner to Sri Lanka says the UK government understands that “some British citizens were caught in the blasts” but it is too soon to say how many might have been affected.
James Dauris is urging Britons to get in touch with family members to let them know they are safe.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expressing “deep shock” over the deadly attacks in Sri Lanka that killed more than 200 people.
Netanyahu issued a statement on Sunday saying that “Israel stands ready to assist the authorities in Sri Lanka at this difficult time.”
The prime minister says that “the entire world must unite in the battle against the scourge of terrorism.”
As many as six of the eight blasts are reported to have been carried out by suicide bombers.
St. Anthony’s Shrine and the three hotels where the blasts took place are in Colombo, and are frequented by foreign tourists. A National Hospital spokesman, Dr. Samindi Samarakoon, told AP they received 47 dead, including nine foreigners, and were treating more than 200 wounded.
Local TV showed damage at the Cinnamon Grand, Shangri-La and Kingsbury hotels.
The Shangri-La’s second-floor restaurant was gutted in the blast, with the ceiling and windows blown out. Loose wires hung and tables were overturned in the blackened space.
A police magistrate was at the hotel to inspect the bodies recovered from the restaurant. From outside the police cordon, three bodies could be seen covered in white sheets.
Alex Agieleson, who was near the shrine, said buildings shook with the blast, and that a number of injured people were carried away in ambulances.
Other blasts were reported at St. Sebastian’s Church in Negombo, a majority Catholic town north of Colombo, and at Zion Church in the eastern town of Batticaloa. St. Sebastian’s appealed for help on its Facebook page.
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, TV footage showed.
Sri Lankan security officials said they were investigating. Police immediately sealed off the areas.