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Sri Lanka: Multiple blasts hit churches, hotels on Easter Sunday, 138 dead

Sri Lanka: Multiple blasts hit churches, hotels on Easter Sunday, 138 dead

COLOMBO: Three churches – St Anthony’s Church in Colombo, St Sebastian’s Church were hit by blasts. Three explosions were reported from the five-star hotels, the Shangrila, the Cinnamon Grand, and the Kingsbury.

Six near simultaneous blasts hit three churches and three hotels frequented by tourists in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday, injuring hundreds, officials and police said. The death toll has touched 100, according to reports by news agency AFP.

At the time of writing 138 were confirmed dead. Of this number 20 were foreigners. CNN reported the number of injured are 560.

The blasts occurred at around 8.45 a.m. (local time) as the Easter Sunday masses were in progress in churches, police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera said.

Three churches – 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 – were targeted, police said.

Three explosions were reported from the five-star hotels, the Shangrila, the Cinnamon Grand and the Kingsbury.

The Colombo National Hospital spokesperson, Dr Samindi Samarakoon earlier said at last 280 people have been admitted with injuries.

It was not immediately clear if the blasts had caused casualties.

“A bomb attack to our church, please come and help,” read a Facebook post from St Sebastian’s Church at Katuwapitiutya, in the Western coastal town of Negombo.

Bombs ‘went off at about the same time’

The bombs have gone off at the same time in all the churches at around 8.45 am local time, according to reports.

Images on social media showed the inside of one of the churches – St Sebastian’s in Negombo – with a shattered ceiling and blood on the pews. 

Sri Lankan media report that foreign tourists may be among the casualties.

Buildings in Colombo ‘shook with the blast’

Alex Agieleson, who was near the St Anthony’s Shrine in Colombo, said buildings shook with the blast, and that a number of injured people were carried away in ambulances.

Local TV showed damage at the Cinnamon Grand, Shangri-La and Kingsbury hotels.

Other blasts were reported at St Sebastian’s Church in Negombo, a majority Catholic town north of Colombo, and at Zion Church in the eastern town of Batticaloa.

St Sebastian’s appealed for help on its Facebook page.

The explosion ripped off the roof and knocked out doors and windows at St Sebastian’s, where people carried the wounded away from blood-stained pews, local TV footage showed. Sri Lankan security officials said they were investigating.

Police immediately sealed off the areas.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe wrote on Twitter: “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. Please avoid propagating unverified reports and speculation. The government is taking immediate steps to contain this situation.”

A latest blast, the seventh hit a hotel in the southern Colombo suburb of Dehiwala killing two more people, bringing the number of deaths to 140.

Junior defense minister Ruwan Wijewardene has declared curfew with immediate effect following eighth bomb blast.

“A curfew will be imposed until things settle down,” he told reporters in Colombo.

Government officials also said major social media networks and messaging apps, including Facebook and WhatsApp, have been blocked inside the country to prevent misinformation and rumors, Reuters reported.

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