Sri Lanka Easter bombings: Mass casualties in churches and hotels | News

A series of bombings has hit luxury hotels and churches in Sri Lanka, killing at least 156 people and wounding about 400 as worshippers were attending Easter Sunday services.

Three of the explosions took place in Catholic churches while three other explosions were reported in luxury hotels – the Cinnamon Grand, Kingsbury and Shangri-La – located in the heart of Colombo.

The first explosion was reported in a church located in the capital. The other blasts followed within half an hour.

One of the churches targeted was St Anthony’s Shrine in Colombo. The other two were St Sebastian’s in Negombo, about 30km from the capital and another in Batticaloa, 250km east of the capital.

St Sebastian’s posted pictures of destruction inside the church on its Facebook page, showing blood on pews and the floor, and requested help from the public.

An official at the Batticaloa hospital told AFP news agency more than 300 people had been admitted with injuries following the blast there.



St Anthony’s Shrine after an explosion hit the site in Kochchikade, Colombo [Chamila Karunarathne/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images]



Several people were killed as worshippers attended Easter service [Chamila Karunarathne/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images]

Police spokesperson Ruwan Gunasekera said the injured were being evacuated while security forces have cordoned off the areas and search operations are under way.

Photos circulating on social media showed the roof of one church had been blown almost entirely 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, some trying to help those with more serious injuries.

Reports said at least 35 foreigners are among the dead.

There were no immediate claims of responsibility.

Government response

“Emergency meeting called in a few minutes. Rescue operations underway,” Sri Lanka’s Minister of Economic Reforms and Public Distribution, Harsha de Silva, said in a tweet on his verified account.

He said he had been to two of the attacked hotels and was at the scene at St Anthony’s Shrine and described “horrible scenes”.

“I saw many body parts strewn all over,” he tweeted, adding that there were “many casualties including foreigners”.

“Please stay calm and indoors,” he added.

Only around six percent of mainly Buddhist Sri Lanka is Catholic, but the religion is seen as a unifying force because it includes people from both the Tamil and majority Sinhalese ethnic groups.

Al Jazeera’s Minelle Fernandez, reporting from Colombo, said the crisis was still unfolding.

“We’re hearing that Colombo national hospital is still receiving casualties brought in from the multiple locations.

“In terms of law enforcement, we’ve been hearing that all festivities have been canceled, that security in and around the city has been tightened,” Fernandez reported.

“It’s still very open-ended … it’s too early [to speculate who is behind the attack] but security in the capital and the airport has been stepped up following the attacks,” she added.

Coordinated attacks

Rajiva Wijesinha, a former member of the Sri Lankan parliament, told Al Jazeera the coordinated nature of the attacks has shocked the country.

“It’s actually extremely chilling. We’ve never had anything of this sort before. Sri Lanka had a terrible time under Tamil Tiger terrorism for about 25 years and then there was a great sense of relief, which I am afraid the West has been fighting with us about, when we got rid of the tiger terrorists,” Rajiva said.

“But the tiger terrorists were never as well organised never and never quite as brilliant in synchronisation and this is obviously something on a much larger scale which is frankly quite terrifying and you know the reactions I’ve heard suggest people are moving into panic mode again,” he said. 

“And that is understandable because of the range of these attacks and the concentration on the Christian churches and then the hotels as well suggest we are dealing with something really quite horrible,” Rajiva added.

Speaking to Al Jazeera from Colombo, Ashwin Hemmathagama, a reporter with the Daily FT, said the attacks were a blow to the country’s tourism sector.

“At the moment, police have cordoned off the areas and cautioned the public to remain vigilant. They have asked the public to stay indoors and avoid hasty decisions because investigations are under way.”

“After the civil war ended, almost a decade ago, the tourism industry was picking up. Basically, everything was back to its current perspective, but unfortunately this kind of attack will definitely cripple the tourism sector.”

Source

more recommended stories

  • Iran seizes foreign oil tanker for ‘smuggling oil’, crew arrested | Iran News

    Iran‘s Revolutionary Guard Corps have seized.

  • Crowd chants ‘send her back’ as Trump renews attacks on Omar | USA News

    US President Donald Trump has intensified.

  • ‘Wizard’ arrested after hack of most Bulgarian taxpayers’ details | News

    A 20-year-old Bulgarian cybersecurity worker was.

  • US slaps sanctions on Myanmar army chief over Rohingya abuses | News

    The United States has announced sanctions.

  • Religious restrictions on the rise globally: report | News

    Religious restrictions are on the rise.

  • Iran hits back at US demands on ballistic missiles, proxy groups | News

    Iran has hit back at US.

  • Malaysia parliament to debate move to lower voting age to 18 | News

    Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – Malaysia’s parliament.

  • El Salvador rape victim jailed for stillbirth goes on trial again | El Salvador News

    San Salvador, El Salvador – Evelyn.

  • Powerful earthquake rocks parts of eastern Indonesia | News

    A strong, shallow earthquake has struck.

  • Cricket: England beat New Zealand to win World Cup | News

    World Cup winners 1975 – West.

  • Barry weakens but Louisiana authorities warn threat remains | News

    Slow-moving tropical storm Barry has weakened.

  • Why is Turkey’s purchase of Russian weapons controversial? | USA

    A battle appears to be looming.

  • UK police warning to media over leaked memos stirs anger | News

    Senior British politicians, including both contenders.

  • The informal networks resisting Honduras’s abortion ban | Honduras

    Tegucigalpa, Honduras – At 22 years.

  • Suicide attack at Somalia hotel followed by gunfire | Somalia News

    A car bomb went off in.

  • Sudan’s ruling military council says coup attempt foiled | News

    Sudan‘s ruling military council (TMC) says.

  • Ghana’s president wants Africa-Europe relationship to change | Colonialism News

    Africa must change its relationship with.

  • Ex-UN chief joins chorus of concern over floods at Rohingya camps | News

    Former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has.

  • US wants Senate-approved deal with Iran: US envoy Brian Hook | News

    The Trump administration wants a Senate-approved agreement.

  • After ISIL, children try to catch up with school in Mosul | ISIS/ISIL News

    Mosul, Iraq – It was the.

  • US wants military coalition to safeguard waters off Iran, Yemen | Iran News

    The United States says it is.

  • Israel’s separation wall endures, 15 years after ICJ ruling | News

    In the occupied West Bank, the.

  • Turkey seeks to arrest hundreds over alleged Gulen links | News

    Turkish prosecutors have ordered the arrest.

  • Iran: World powers won’t get a better nuclear deal | USA News

    Iran warned world powers they will.

  • Iran passes new nuclear deal limit as China blames US for crisis | News

    Iran has passed the uranium enrichment cap.

  • Trump hits back at UK envoy who called White House ‘inept’ | Trump News

    US President Donald Trump has hit back.

  • Indonesia: Tsunami warning issued after strong earthquake | News

    Indonesian authorities have issued a tsunami.

  • Anti-racists outnumber far-right Proud Boys at DC rally | USA News

    Washington, DC – Counterprotesters outnumbered members.

  • How can modern slavery be stopped? | UK

    They were told they’d get jobs.

  • Media haven or hell? The paradox of journalism in Turkey | Turkey

    In this special edition of the.

  • Rival rallies held on Venezuela’s independence day | Juan Guaido News

    Venezuela‘s bitterly divided political factions have.

  • Can a Corbyn-Sturgeon alliance save Brexit Britain from itself? | UK

    At the start of June, when.