At least 450 wounded including four Pakistani nationals; PM strongly condemns the attack
COLOMBO: At least 207 people were killed and hundreds injured in Sri Lanka when a string of blasts ripped through high-end hotels and churches as worshipers attended Easter services. The powerful blasts six in quick succession and then two more hours later wrought devastation, including at the capital’s well-known St Anthony’s Shrine, a historic Catholic Church. At least 450 were reported to be wounded in the attacks, including four Pakistani nationals. Hospital sources said British, Dutch and American citizens were among the dead overall, 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. The injured flooded into local hospitals, where officials reported hundreds of wounded were being admitted.
The nature of the blasts was not immediately clear and there were no immediate claims of responsibility. President Maithripala Sirisena in an address said he was shocked by the explosions and appealed for calm. Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera, writing on his verified Twitter account, said the attacks had killed “many innocent people” and appeared to be a “well-coordinated attempt to create murder, mayhem & anarchy.” The first explosions were reported at St Anthony’s Church in Colombo and St Sebastian’s in the town of 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 church’s Facebook page.
Soon after, police confirmed that a third church in the east-coast town of Batticaloa had been hit, along with three high-end hotels in the capital. Later in the afternoon, a hotel in the south of Colombo was struck — killing at least two people and bringing the toll to 158 — while another hit the suburb of Orugodawatta in the north of the capital. The blasts hit the two churches as worshippers attended Easter services, police said. The hotels targeted in the attack are all popular destinations for tourists, among them the Cinnamon Grand, which is near the prime minister’s official residence in Colombo.
An official at the hotel told AFP the blast there had hit the restaurant, and reported at least one person had been killed. 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. Sri Lankan 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”, and said the government.— APP