A series of eight devastating bomb blasts ripped through high-end hotels and churches holding Easter services in Sri Lanka on Sunday, killing at least 207 people, including dozens of foreigners.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe condemned the attacks — the worst act of violence since the end of Sri Lanka’s civil war a decade ago — as “cowardly”, as the government imposed an immediate and indefinite curfew across the entire country of 21 million people.
The powerful blasts -– six in quick succession and then two more hours later — left hundreds injured and wrought devastation, including at the capital’s well-known St Anthony’s Shrine, a historic Catholic Church.
At least two of the explosions were carried out by suicide bombers, according to police sources and a hotel official, and police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera said the authorities were investigating whether suicide attackers were involved in all eight of them.
Gunasekera told a press conference the death toll had risen to at least 207, with over 450 people wounded and that three people had been arrested.
Ravinatha Aryasinha, secretary to the foreign ministry, told reporters there were 27 bodies of suspected foreign nationals in the Colombo National Hospital.
A police official said earlier that 35 foreigners were among the dead and hospital sources said British, Dutch and American citizens had been killed, with Britons and Japanese also injured. A Portuguese man also died, the country’s LUSA news agency reported.
An AFP photographer at the scene at St Anthony’s saw bodies lying on the floor, some draped with scarves and clothes.
Much of the church roof was blown out in the explosion, with roof tiles, glass and splintered wood littering the floor along with pools of blood.
At the Shangri-La hotel, an AFP photographer saw extensive damage on the second floor restaurant, with windows blown out and electrical wires hanging from the ceiling.
The injured flooded into local hospitals, where officials reported hundreds of wounded were being admitted.
Sri Lanka’s Minister of Economic Reforms and Public Distribution, Harsha de Silva, said he had been to two of the attacked hotels and was at the scene at St Anthony’s, where he described “horrible scenes”.