Colombo: Six near simultaneous explosions rocked three churches and three hotels frequented by foreigners in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday morning, killing more than 140 people and injuring over 400 others, in one of the deadliest blasts in the island nation’s history, officials said.
The blasts targeted St Anthony’s Church in Colombo, St Sebastian’s Church in the western coastal town of Negombo and another church in the eastern town of Batticaloa around 8.45 a.m. (local time) as the Easter Sunday mass were in progress, police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera said.
Three explosions were reported from the five-star hotels – the Shangri-La, the Cinnamon Grand and the Kingsbury. Foreigners and locals who were injured in hotel blasts were admitted to the Colombo General Hospital.
Harsha de Silva, Sri Lanka’s Minister of Economic Reforms and Public Distributionm, said that there have been “many casualties including foreigners.” Hospital sources said that more than 140 have been killed in the blasts.
“45 people died in Colombo where three hotels and a church were hit, while 68 were killed in Negombo and 27 in Batticaloa,” they said. Among the 45 bodies at the Colombo National Hospital there are nine bodies of foreigners, officials at the hospital said.
The Colombo National Hospital spokesperson, Dr Samindi Samarakoon, said more than 300 people have been admitted with injuries.
Dr Kalanidhi Ganeshalingam, the spokesperson for the Batticaloa hospital, said over 100 have been admitted with injuries from St Michael’s Church explosion. No group has claimed responsibility for Sunday’s attacks.
However, most of the deadly attacks in the past in Sri Lanka were carried out by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) which ran a military campaign for a separate Tamil homeland in the northern and eastern provinces of the island nation for nearly 30 years before its collapse in 2009 after the Sri Lankan Army killed its supreme leader Velupillai Prabhakaran.
President Maithripala Sirisena has appealed for calm. “I have been shocked by this totally unexpected incidents. The security forces haven been asked to take all action necessary,” Sirisena said.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe termed the blasts as “cowardly attacks” and said his government was working to “contain the situation.” “I call upon all Sri Lankans during this tragic time to remain united and strong… The government is taking immediate steps to contain this situation,” he tweeted.
The Sri Lankan government has summoned an emergency meeting called. All necessary emergency steps have been taken by the government, a minister said, adding that an official statement will be issued soon.
“Horrible scenes. I saw many body parts strewn all over. Emergency crews are at all locations in full force. We, at 1990 also have close to 20 units at the various locations. We took multiple casualties to hospital. Hopefully saved many lives,” Harsha de Silva said.
The Indian High Commission in Colombo said that it was closely monitoring the situation in Sri Lanka. “We are closely monitoring the situation. Indian citizens in need of assistance or help and for seeking clarification may call the following numbers : +94777903082 +94112422788 +94112422789,” the High Commission tweeted.
“In addition to the numbers given, Indian citizens in need of assistance or help and for seeking clarification may also call the following numbers +94777902082 +94772234176,” it said.
The first blasts were reported at St Anthony’s church in Colombo and St Sebastian’s Church in Negombo just outside the capital.
“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. The blasts were followed by explosions at three hotels in Colombo and the church in Batticaloa.