Powerful explosions blasted three churches full of worshipers on Easter morning, the pinnacle of Holy Week, killing and injuring hundreds, The New York Times reports. Police reported that the attacks were coordinated by a single group, and bombers also attacked three five-star hotels that were popular tourist areas.
Police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera said that at least 207 were killed and 450 injured. News of the attack, the largest violent strike against South Asian Christians in recent years, interrupted Easter celebrations around the world. After Mass in a typically joyful St. Peter's Square, Pope Francis stated that the bombings had “brought mourning and sorrow” on the holiday most important to Christians.
Sri Lanka saw the end of a grisly, 26-year civil war a decade ago, in which Tamil guerrillas coordinated wide use of suicide bombing tactics. The war practice had then spread to the Middle East, where it was studied and copied.
“It has been 10 years since we last saw this kind of horror,” Sri Lankan Defense Secretary Hemasiri Fernando said.
The attacks started at around 8:45 in the morning and targeted Roman Catholic sites: St. Anthony's Shrine in Colombo, Zion Church in Batticaloa, and Sebastian's Church in Negombo. Luxury hotels the Shangri-La, the Cinnamon Grand, and the Kingsbury, all located in the capital of Sri Lanka, Colombo, were also bombarded with attacks.
According to Defense Minister Ruwan Wijewardene, the attacks were carried out by suicide bombers, and seven suspects with alleged ties to the attacks have been arrested. In an effort to stop the spread of misinformation, presidential secretary Udaya Seneviratne said that the government temporarily suspended large messaging and social media platforms including WhatsApp and Facebook.
Sri Lankan news has reported that 35 foreigners were among those that had been killed. Three from England and two with both American and British citizenship were killed. Foreign minister of the Netherlands Stef Blok said that one Dutch citizen had been killed, and Turkish ambassador Tunca Ozcuhadar said that two engineers from Turkey had been killed. Chinese citizens were also among the dead, according to reports.