Colombo: At least 207 people were killed and over 450 injured in eight suicide bombings that rocked Colombo, Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday. Three Indians were among the dead, Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj confirmed late in the evening, identifying the deceased as Lakshmi, Narayan Chandrashekhar and Ramesh.
Meanwhile, in the wake of the attacks, Sri Lanka declared a nationwide curfew and placed curbs on social media after a series of well-planned explosions targeted luxury hotels and Catholic churches in Colombo. All schools were ordered shut until Tuesday.
Expressing grief over the deaths in the dastardly attack, Sri Lanka Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe tweeted, “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.”
The first of six blasts took place on Sunday morning in three luxury hotels in the heart of Colombo and in a church each in Negombo and in the Tamil-majority Batticaloa town. In the afternoon, another blast hit a guest house near the zoo in Dehiwala in Colombo, killing two persons. The eighth explosion was reported at a housing complex in Dematogoda, leaving three policemen dead.
As confirmed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Colombo, Sri Lanka, the number of fatalities are 3 Indians, 1 Portuguese, 2 Turkish, 3 British and 2 holding US and UK nationalities. The statement also revealed that 19 are injured. Out of the total foreigners killed in the mayhem, the bodies of 25 are yet to be identified.
As per the authorities, a total of seven suspects have been arrested so far in connection with the matter. A media report also claimed that a van, which was likely used in the attacks, has also be recovered.
(One Sri Lanka Suicide Bomber Stood in Queue For Buffet at Hotel Before Exploding Himself: Reports)
The attacks were carried out at St Anthony’s Shrine in Kochchikade in Colombo, St Sebastian’s Church in Negombo, the Zion Church in Batticaloa and Kingsbury Hotel, the Shangri-La and the Cinnamon Grand.
Photos and videos circulating on social media showed the roof of one church had been almost fully blown away in the blast.
Minister of Economic Reforms Harsha de Silva described the carnage. “Horrible scenes. I saw many body parts strewn all over,” he said.
No one claimed responsibility for the bloodbath but AFP reported that Sri Lankan Police chief Pujuth Jayasundara had issued a nationwide alert 10 days ago warning that suicide bombers planned to hit prominent Catholic churches.
President Sirisena urged the public to be calm and cooperate with the authorities to conduct swift investigations into the blasts. “I am shocked and saddened by the situation.”
Sri Lanka Blasts Condemned From Across The World
India strongly condemned the series of blasts and avowed to extend all possible help. Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke on phone with Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, called the terror attacks ‘cold-blooded and pre-planned’ barbarism and offered all help.
External Affairs minister also issued the helpline numbers earlier in the day. “Indian High Commission in Colombo @IndiainSL will provide you all help and assistance. Our helpline numbers are : +94777903082, +94112422788, +9411242278,” she tweeted.
Condemnation was fast and swift from across the world: China, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Ireland, Britain, Germany, Singapore, the Philippines, Israel, Afghanistan, Malaysia, Egypt, New Zealand, Canada and the European Commission denounced the killings.
(With inputs from agencies)