Sri Lanka Easter attacks: Death toll soars to 290
Three churches were targeted during Easter services
The death toll in Sri Lanka has soared to 290 after a wave of blasts hit churches and luxury hotels across the country on Sunday.
Police said that 24 people have been arrested, but it is not yet known who carried out the attacks.
About 500 people are injured and dozens of foreigners are among the dead.
The country is in shock after the Easter Sunday bombings, the deadliest violence since the end of the civil war in 2009.
Late on Sunday Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said security services had been “aware of information” of possible attacks but that the information had not been acted upon.
How did the attacks unfold?
The first reports of explosions came at about 08:45 (03:15 GMT) local time – with six blasts reported within a small space of time.
Three churches in Negombo, Batticaloa and Colombo’s Kochchikade district were targeted during Easter services and blasts also rocked the Shangri-La, Kingsbury and Cinnamon Grand hotels in the country’s capital.
As police hunted those responsible, two further explosions were reported.
One blast hit near the zoo in Dehiwala, southern Colombo, and an eighth was reported near the Colombo district of Dematagoda during a police raid, killing three officers.
Late on Sunday, the air force said an improvised explosive device had been found and disposed of close to the country’s main airport in the capital, Colombo.
“A PVC pipe which was six feet [1.8m] in length containing explosives in it was discovered,” spokesman Gihan Seneviratne told local media.
What’s known about the attackers?
It remains unclear who was behind the attacks, but 24 arrests were made by police.
The government has said they believe suicide bombs were used at some of the sites.
The BBC’s Azzam Ameen in Colombo says the attackers are thought to be part of a “radical extremist Islamist group” according to authorities.
During a news conference on Sunday evening, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe addressed rumours that officials had had prior intelligence of forthcoming attacks.
“We must look into why adequate precautions were not taken. Neither I nor the Ministers were kept informed,” he said.
“For now the priority is to apprehend the attackers,” he added.
Government officials have called for the public to remain calm while investigations take place.
There was also a temporary restriction on some social media networks to try and stop misinformation spreading.
Who are the victims?
The vast majority of those killed are thought to be Sri Lankan nationals, including scores of Christians who died at Easter church services.
The country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs says it believes 36 foreign nationals are among the dead, with most still unidentified at a Colombo morgue.
The international victims include:
- At least five British citizens – including two with joint US citizenship
- Three Danish citizens
- One Portuguese citizen and three Indian nationals, according to Sri Lankan officials
- Two engineers from Turkey, according to Turkish news outlet Anadolu
- One person from the Netherlands
- One person from Japan, according to Japanese media citing government sources
How has the world responded?
World leaders have been offering their shock and condolences to Sri Lanka over the deadly blasts.
Several prominent international monuments, including the Eiffel Tower, were dimmed or lit in Sri Lanka’s colours in solidarity on Sunday night.
Pope Francis, in his traditional Urbi et Orbi speech at the Vatican, condemned the attacks as “such cruel violence” targeting Christians celebrating Easter.
A spokesperson for UN Secretary General António Guterres said he was “outraged” by the attacks, and expressed his hope the perpetrators would be “swiftly brought to justice”.
India’s Narendra Modi condemned the attacks as “barbaric” while Pakistan’s leader Imran Khan also offered his “profound condolences” to Sri Lanka.
UK PM Theresa May wrote in a tweet that the “acts of violence against churches and hotels in Sri Lanka are truly appalling”.
US President Donald Trump tweeted “heartfelt condolences” for the “horrible terrorist attacks”.
The leader of New Zealand, where deadly mosque attacks killed 50 last month, labelled the bombings “devastating”.
“Collectively we must find the will and the answers to end such violence,” Jacinda Ardern said.(BBC)