Colombo (Sri Lanka), April 21: Terror struck Sri Lanka as suicide bombers carried out a eight well-planned explosions targeting luxury hotels and Catholic churches in Colombo on Easter Sunday killing more than 200 and injuring 469.
Easter Sunday is the island’s bloodiest day since the civil war between the government and the LTTE ended in 2009.
The government declared a state of emergency and imposed nationwide curfew and blocked Facebook, whatsapp and Instagram to curb the spread of fake news.news. All schools were ordered shut until Tuesday.
Six blasts took place in the morning in three luxury hotels in Shangri-La, Kingsbury and Cinnamon Grand luxury hotels, at 8.45 a.m.(local time) as people started gathering for Easter Sunday masses in churches at Negombo, Batticaloa and Colombo’s Kochchikad. The Tamil-majority Batticaloa town was once a Tamil Tiger stronghold.
Another blast took place in Kochchikade at places of worship and high-end hotels and in Dehiwala in Colombo, killing two persons, and a housing complex at Dematogoda in the city leaving three policemen dead.
Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in a statment said eight people have been arrested in connection with the serial blasts. “So far the names that have come up are local,” but that investigators would look into whether the attackers had any “overseas links,” Wickremesinghe said.
Many people could be seen covered in blood. Some helped those with more serious injuries.
Minister of Economic Reforms Harsha de Silva described the carnage. “Horrible scenes. I saw many body parts strewn all over,” he said.
Photos and videos circulating on social media showed the roof of one church had been almost fully blown away in the blast. The floor was littered with a mixture of roof tiles, splintered wood and blood.
No one claimed responsibility for the bloodbath and Sri Lankan Police chief Pujuth Jayasundara had issued a nationwide alert 10 days ago warning that suicide bombers planned to hit prominent Catholic churches.
The initial investigations point to the fact that the first six major blasts were caused by suicide bombers and added that two of them had checked a day earlier into the Shangri-La Hotel.
The investigators who broke into Room No 616 “had recovered materials used by radical” Islamist extremists.
The international community has strongly condemned the multiple blasts at different locations in Sri Lanka, mostly in Colombo.
Condemnation was fast and swift from across the world: China, the US, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pope Francis, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, Ireland, Britain, Germany, Singapore, the Philippines, Israel, Afghanistan, Malaysia, Egypt, New Zealand, Canada and the European Commission denounced the killings.
The US Embassy in Colombo has also put out the helpline numbers on Twitter.
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan said in a series of tweets that his country “stood in complete solidarity with Sri Lanka in its hour of grief”.
“My profound condolences go to our Sri Lankan brethren. Pakistan stands in complete solidarity with Sri Lanka in their hour of grief,” Khan tweeted.
British Prime Minister Theresa May and the leader of the opposition Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, too have condemned the attacks.
“We must stand together to make sure that no one should ever have to practice their faith in fear,” May posted on Twitter.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker expressed “horror and sadness” over the string of blasts in the island nation.
The French Embassy in Colombo has asked its citizens to avoid public places.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke on phone with Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, called the terror attacks “cold-blooded and pre-planned” barbarism and offered all help from New Delhi.
Meanwhile, EAM confirmed that the National Hospital via the Indian High Commission in Colombo informed about the death of three Indian nationals. Their names are Lakshmi, Narayan Chandrashekhar and Ramesh.