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Sri Lanka under curfew after Easter bomb blasts on Church and Hotel as death toll surpasses 200

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Sri Lanka under curfew after bomb blasts as death toll surpasses 200

COLOMBO: The Sri Lankan government has imposed a nationwide curfew after a strong of bomb blasts at churches and hotels on Sunday (Apr 21) that left 207 dead, including 35 foreigners.

At least 450 injured people have been admitted to hospital, police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera told reporters in Colombo.

 

The attacks were mostly targeted at high-end hotels in the capital and churches where worshippers were attending Easter services.

Social media access has also been curbed to restrict "wrong information" spreading in the country of 21 million people.


There was no immediate claim of responsibility but the government said eight people had been arrested.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said "so far the names that have come up are local," but that investigators would look into whether the attackers had any "overseas links".
 

Mr Gunasekera said the police were investigating whether suicide bombers were involved in all of the blasts.

In a video on his Twitter account, Sri Lanka's State Minister for Defence Ruwan Wijewardene said the country's Criminal Investigations Department is working with the police and the military to investigate the attacks.

"We believe that all the culprits who have been involved in this unfortunate terrorist incident will be taken into custody as soon as possible," he said, adding that suspects have been identified.

'A LOT OF FEAR'

Documents seen by AFP show that Sri Lanka's police chief Pujuth Jayasundara issued an intelligence alert to top officers 10 days ago, warning that suicide bombers planned to hit "prominent churches".

"A foreign intelligence agency has reported that the NTJ (National Thowheeth Jama'ath) is planning to carry out suicide attacks targeting prominent churches as well as the Indian high commission in Colombo," the alert said.

The NTJ is a radical Muslim group in Sri Lanka that was linked last year to the vandalisation of Buddhist statues.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe acknowledged that "information was there" about possible attacks and that an investigation would look into "why adequate precautions were not taken".

Documents seen by AFP show that Sri Lanka's police chief Pujuth Jayasundara issued an intelligence alert to top officers 10 days ago, warning that suicide bombers planned to hit "prominent churches".

"A foreign intelligence agency has reported that the NTJ (National Thowheeth Jama'ath) is planning to carry out suicide attacks targeting prominent churches as well as the Indian high commission in Colombo," the alert said.

The NTJ is a radical Muslim group in Sri Lanka that was linked last year to the vandalisation of Buddhist statues.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe acknowledged that "information was there" about possible attacks and that an investigation would look into "why adequate precautions were not taken".

Ethnic and religious violence has plagued Sri Lanka for decades, with a 37-year conflict with Tamil rebels followed by an upswing in recent years in clashes between the Buddhist majority and Muslims.

Catholics make up around six per cent of the island nation's population, which is a patchwork of different religious and ethnic groups dominated by Buddhist Sinhalese.

While there have been attacks on Christians, their community had been left relatively unscathed until now.

Rucki Fernando, a Christian Sri Lankan, told AFP: "We haven't experienced anything like this in the last 10 years."

Eight explosions in hotels and churches were reported on Sunday. A police official said at least 45 people had been killed in Colombo, where three hotels and a church were hit.

Another 67 were killed in an attack on a church in Negombo, north of the capital, with another 25 dead at a church in the town of Batticaloa, in the east of the country.

The first explosions were reported at St Anthony's Church in Colombo and St Sebastian's in the town of Negombo just outside the capital.

At least 160 people injured in the St Anthony's blast had been admitted to the Colombo National Hospital by mid-morning, an official told AFP.

 

"A bomb attack to our church, please come and help if your family members are there," read a post in English on the Facebook page of the St Sebastian's Church at Katuwapitiya in Negombo.

Shortly after those blasts were reported, police confirmed three hotels in the capital had also been hit, along with a church in the town of Batticalao, in the east of the country.

At least one of the victims was killed in Colombo's Cinnamon Grand Hotel, near the prime minister's official residence, where the blast ripped through a restaurant, a hotel official told AFP.

 

VICTIMS

Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed there were no Singaporean casualties after the attacks.

Police said 35 foreigners were among the dead, including American, British, Chinese, Dutch and Portuguese citizens. Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj said three Indians were killed, while Washington and London also confirmed an unspecified number of their nationals were among the dead.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo confirmed that "several US citizens" were killed.

The US Embassy is working tirelessly to provide all possible assistance to the American citizens affected by the attacks and their families."

Three Danish citizens are also dead, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark.

Two Turkish citizens were killed in the attacks on Sunday, according to Turkey's state media Anadolu.

Chinese state paper People's Daily said one Chinese national was killed during the attacks, while Xinhua reported four others were injured and in a stable condition in hospital.A Portuguese man also died, according to the nation's LUSA news agency.

Hospital sources told AFP British, Dutch and American citizens were among those killed, while Britons and Japanese nationals were also injured.

US President Donald Trump tweeted his condolences about the "horrible terrorist attacks", and Pope Francis in his Easter address at the Vatican spoke of his "affectionate closeness with the Christian community, attacked while it was at prayer". 


Photos circulating on social media showed the roof of one church had been almost blown off in the blast.

The floor was littered with a mixture of roof tiles, splintered wood and blood.

Several people could be seen covered in blood, with some trying to help those with more serious injuries.



 


 


https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/asia/sri-lanka-blasts-churches-hotels-easter-mass-11464816


R.I.P to the victims.

Please be beware when travel to South Asian and South East Asian nation.

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