Seven arrested as Sri Lanka bombings death toll passes 200 - UPDATED

  21 April 2019    Read: 3376
Seven arrested as Sri Lanka bombings death toll passes 200 - UPDATED

Seven people were arrested and three police officers were killed during a raid on a house in Colombo on Sunday as the death toll from a rash of bombings at churches and hotels in Sri Lanka rose past 200, police and local media said, Reuters reported.

“Altogether we have information of 207 dead from all hospitals. According to the information as of now we have 450 injured people admitted to hospitals,” Police Spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera told reporters in Colombo.

Further details of the raid on the house in the Sri Lankan capital were not immediately available.

The eight explosions, some of which officials said were suicide bomb attacks, led to an immediate clampdown, with the government declaring a curfew and blocking access to major social media and messaging sites, including Facebook and WhatsApp.

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Sri Lankan authorities said on Sunday that the death toll from the explosions which shook the Sri Lankan capital earlier in the day had risen to 185 while 469 others were injured, Xinhua reported.

Local media quoting police and hospital sources said that nine foreigners were among those killed and 13 others were injured.

Police spokesperson Ruwan Gunasekara told Xinhua that a seventh explosion was reported from opposite the Dehiwala Zoo in Colombo on Sunday afternoon.

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A string of blasts ripped through high-end hotels and churches holding Easter services in Sri Lanka on Sunday, killing at least 156 people, including 35 foreigners, AFP reported.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe condemned the attacks as "cowardly" and said the government was working to "contain the situation".

Images circulating on social media and local news stations showed extensive damage at one of three churches targeted in the near simultaneous blasts on Sunday morning.

Much of the church roof was blown out in the explosion, with roof tiles and splintered wood littering the floor and pools of blood in between wounded worshippers.

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.

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Easter Day bomb blasts at three Sri Lankan churches and three luxury hotels killed 138 people and wounded more than 400, hospital and police officials said, following a lull in major attacks since the end of the civil war 10 years ago, Reuters reported.

In just one church, St. Sebastian’s in Katuwapitiya, north of Colombo, more than 50 people had been killed, 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 a church in Batticaloa in Eastern Province.

The three hotels hit were the Shangri-La Colombo, Kingsbury Hotel and Cinnamon Grand Colombo. It was unclear whether there were any casualties in the hotels.

Nine foreigners were among the dead, the officials said.

There were no immediate claims of responsibility for the attacks in a country which was at war for decades with Tamil separatists until 2009 during which bomb blasts in the capital were common.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe called a national security council meeting at his home for later in the day.

One of the explosions was at St Anthony’s Church in Kochcikade, Colombo.

“Our people are engaged in evacuating the casualties,” a source with the bomb squad said.

St. Sebastian’s church posted pictures of destruction inside the church on its Facebook page, showing blood on pews and the floor, and requested help from the public.

Last year, there were 86 verified incidents of discrimination, threats and violence against Christians, according to the National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka (NCEASL), which represents more than 200 churches and other Christian organizations.

This year, the NCEASL recorded 26 such incidents, including one in which Buddhist monks allegedly attempted to disrupt a Sunday worship service, with the last one reported on March 25.

Out of Sri Lanka’s total population of around 22 million, 70 percent are Buddhist, 12.6 percent Hindu, 9.7 percent Muslim, and 7.6 percent Christian, according to the country’s 2012 census.

In its 2018 report on Sri Lanka’s human rights, the U.S. State Department noted that some Christian groups and churches reported they had been pressured to end worship activities after authorities classified them as “unauthorized gatherings.”

The report also said Buddhist monks regularly tried to close down Christian and Muslim places of worship, citing unidentified sources.

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Easter Day bomb blasts at three Sri Lankan churches and three hotels killed more than 20 people and wounded nearly 300, a hospital official and police sources said, Reuters reported.

Colombo National Hospital Director Samindi Samrakoon said she knew of at least 20 deaths and 280 people injured.

A police spokesman said that three churches and three hotels were hit.

At least two of the hotels and one of the churches are in the capital, Colombo. Another church is in Negombo, north of Colombo.

A source in the police bomb squad said that one of the explosions was at St Anthony’s Church in Kochcikade, Colombo.

“Our people are engaged in evacuating the casualties,” the source said.

St. Sebastian’s church at Katuwapitiya in Negombo posted pictures of destruction inside the church on its Facebook page, showing blood on pews and the floor, and requested help from the public.

Sources from two leading tourist hotels in Colombo also confirmed the explosions but did not give any details.

There were no immediate claims of responsibility.

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Two Sri Lankan churches and two hotels were hit by explosions on Easter Sunday, wounding several people, police sources said, Reuters reported.

The hotels and one of the churches are in the nation’s capital Colombo. The other church is in Negombo, north of Colombo.

A source in the police bomb squad said that one of the explosions was at St Anthony’s Church in Kochcikade, Colombo. “Our people are engaged in evacuating the casualties,” the source said.

Sources from two leading tourist hotels in Colombo also confirmed the explosions but did not give any details.

Colombo National hospital said several wounded had been brought in for treatment.

St. Sebastian’s church at Katuwapitiya in Negombo posted pictures of destruction inside the church on its Facebook page, showing blood on pews and the floor, and requested help from the public.

There were no immediate claims of responsibility.


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