Horror has struck Catholics in Sri Lanka, where at least 200 people were killed in a series of explosions.
New York Times reported that a series of coordinated bombings ripped across Sri Lanka on Sunday, striking hotels and churches and killing more than 200 people and shattering the relative calm that the war-torn nation had enjoyed in recent years.
The targets of the attacks were members of Sri Lanka’s small Roman Catholic minority who were attending Easter Mass and guests at high-end hotels that are popular with foreign tourists. By Sunday afternoon, soldiers had shut down roads across the country and a jittery government had imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew.
The government temporarily blocked major social media and messaging services, including Facebook and WhatsApp, to prevent the spread of misinformation online, according to the president’s secretary, Udaya Seneviratne.
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More than 200 people were killed and hundreds more hospitalized from injuries after a series of blasts devastated three churches and three luxury hotels in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday.
The targets were Catholic worshippers attending Easter Mass and guests at high-end hotels popular with foreign tourists.
Reports now indicate a seventh explosion in the Sri Lankan capital has killed two people. Police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera said the blast hit a hotel in the southern Colombo suburb of Dehiwala.
Worshippers and hotel guests were among the fatalities, the official said, in the biggest violence in the South Asian country since its civil war ended a decade ago. Nine foreigners were among the dead, officials confirmed.
The three hotels hit were the Shangri-La Colombo, Kingsbury Hotel in Colombo and the Cinnamon Grand Colombo.
In just one church, St. Sebastian’s in Katuwapitiya, north of the Sri Lankan capital, more than 50 people were killed, a police official told Reuters, with pictures showing bodies on the ground, blood on the pews and a destroyed roof.
Local media said 25 people were also killed in the attack on a church in Batticaloa in Eastern Province, where more than 300 injured people were rushed to a local hospital. The three hotels where the blasts took place are in Colombo, and are frequented by foreign tourists.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe immediately called a national security council meeting at his home.
“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.
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.
— Ranil Wickremesinghe (@RW_UNP) April 21, 2019
Photos circulating on social media showed the roof of one church had been almost blown off in the blast. The floor was littered with a mixture of roof tiles, splintered wood and blood.