April 21, 2019
PHOTO: St Sebastian’s Church has posted images of the blast to its Facebook page and called for help. (Facebook: St Sebastian’s Church in Waga, Sri Lanka)
Easter Sunday bomb blasts at three Sri Lankan churches and three luxury hotels killed at least 160 people and injured more than 400, violence which Sri Lanka has not seen since its civil war ended a decade ago.
A total of seven sites were targeted, including Christian churches and luxury hotels
The attacks come almost 10 years after the end of a bloody civil war
There were no immediate claims of responsibility for the attacks more than 50 people were killed in St Sebastian’s gothic-style Catholic church in Katuwapitiya, north of Colombo, a police official told Reuters, with pictures showing bodies on the ground, blood on the pews and a destroyed roof.
Media reported 25 people were also killed in an attack on an evangelical church in Batticaloa in the country’s eastern province.
Another attack targeted parishioners at St Anthony’s Shrine in central Colombo, but the death toll there is unclear.
The three hotels hit were the Shangri-La Colombo, Kingsbury Hotel in Colombo and the Cinnamon Grand Colombo. It was unclear whether there were any casualties in the hotels.
Police said a seventh blast struck a hotel in Dehiwela, near Colombo, while news agency Agence France Presse reported that police confirmed an eighth blast.
Nine foreigners were among the dead, the officials said.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe summoned his national security council for an emergency meeting.
“I strongly condemn the cowardly attacks on our people today. I call upon all Sri Lankans during this tragic time to remain united and strong,” he said in a tweet.
He later told reporters in Colombo that Sri Lanka would “take stern action against all those who are responsible for these attacks regardless of their stature”.
Mr Wickremesinghe’s government has declared a curfew with immediate effect, and it has also shutdown access to major social media sites including Facebook and WhatsApp.
The Presidential Secretary has declared that April 22 and 23 are to be government holidays.
A spokesperson from the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) told the ABC the “Australian High Commission in Colombo is making urgent enquiries with local authorities to determine the welfare of any Australians affected”.
DFAT added anyone concerned for the welfare of family and friends in the area should attempt to contact them directly, or call DFAT’s Consular Emergency Centre on 1300 555 135 (within Australia) or +61 2 6261 3305 (from overseas).
Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne confirmed she had spoken to Australia’s High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, David Holly.
“I am deeply shocked and saddened by the targeted attacks in places of worship and celebration on Easter Sunday,” she wrote on Twitter.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters in Sydney that Australia’s heart went out to “Christians and all those innocents” who were slaughtered in the attack.