200+ killed in multiple church, hotel explosions during Easter services

Posted at 7:01 AM, Apr 21, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-21 13:04:44-04

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (CNN) — At least 207 people were killed and hundreds more wounded in a series of bomb blasts that hit luxury hotels and churches across Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday, leaving the entire country in a state of lockdown.

The first wave of attacks struck at the heart of the country’s minority Christian community during busy Easter services at churches in the cities of Colombo, Negombo and Batticaloa on Sunday morning.

Additional blasts ripped through three high-end hotels, the Shangri La, Cinnamon Grand and Kingsbury, all in capital city Colombo.

The violence punctured a decade of relative peace in the country following the end of its civil war in 2009 — where attacks were common during the 25-year struggle. Sri Lanka has since turned itself into a popular tourist destination, winning the title of best place in the world to visit in 2019 by travel guide publisher Lonely Planet.

“These are certainly acts of terror,” the High Commissioner of Sri Lanka to the UK Manisha Gunasekera told CNN on Sunday, suggesting that suicide bombings had been “carried out.”

“This is an attack against the whole of Sri Lanka because Sri Lanka is [a] multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multi-cultural country and the whole country comes together in celebration of Easter Sunday.”

In a statement, the Shangri-La hotel in Colombo said that the hotel’s Table One cafe was hit just after 9 a.m local time. The hotel is popular with foreign tourists and the country’s business community.

On Sunday afternoon, the seventh and eighth blast occurred at a hotel in front of the Dehiwala Zoo in Dehiwala-Mount Lavinia and at a private house in Mahawila Gardens, in Dematagoda, during a raid in connection with the attacks, officials said.

Here’s the full list of blast sites reported so far:

  • St. Anthony’s Shrine, Colombo
  • St. Sebastian’s Church, Negombo
  • Zion Church, Batticaloa
  • Cinnamon Grand, Colombo
  • Shangri-La Hotel, Colombo
  • The Kingsbury Hotel, Colombo
  • Near Dehiwala Zoo in Dehiwala-Mount Lavinia
  • A house in Mahawila Gardens, Dematagoda
Sri Lanka’s Minister of Economic Reforms and Public Distribution Harsha de Silva said on Twitterthat “close to 30 foreigners” were killed on Sunday. In the capital, Colombo, at least 20 foreigners were among the dead, according to hospital Director General Anil Jasinghe. Hospitals have opened their doors to scores of victims.

Three Indians, two Turkish nationals, and two Chinese citizens were identified as deceased among the hundreds who died, according to Sri Lanka’s Foreign Ministry in a statement seen by CNN.

Five British citizens, including two dual US-UK nationals, were also killed in the bombings, the statement said.

The UK Foreign Office has not yet confirmed the deaths, but British High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, James Dauris, said some British citizens were also “caught in the blast.”

Seven people are under arrest following the attacks, De Silva wrote after an emergency meeting with defense officials.

There was however no immediate claim of responsibility. Sri Lankan security officials said police and security services immediately rushed to all affected areas and sealed off the churches and hotels.

Social media sites, including Facebook and Instagram, were blocked by the government while investigations were taking place.