As many as 170, including dozens of foreign nationals, were killed while over 400 others sustained serious injuries as eight blasts rocked the island nation of Sri Lanka. The seventh and eighth blasts occurred hours after near six near-simultaneous blasts rocked three churches and three five star hotels in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday morning.
The morning blasts targeted St Anthony’s Church in Colombo, St Sebastian’s Church in the western coastal town of Negombo and another church in the eastern town of Batticaloa around 8.45 a.m. (local time) when worshipers were attending Easter services, police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera said.
Three explosions were reported from the five-star hotels - the Shangri-La, the Cinnamon Grand and the Kingsbury. Foreigners and locals who were injured in hotel blasts were admitted to the Colombo General Hospital.
According to sources, 129 deaths have been confirmed in the blasts but local media reports claimed that the death toll has already reached 160 and was likely to increase further. "Many casualties including foreigners," said Harsha de Silva, the Minister of Economic Reforms and Public Distribution.
So far, no group has claimed the responsibility for one of the deadliest attack in the history of Sri Lanka. However, most of the deadly attacks in the past in Sri Lanka were carried out by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) which ran a military campaign for a separate Tamil homeland in the northern and eastern provinces of the island nation for nearly 30 years before its collapse in 2009 after the Sri Lankan Army killed its supreme leader Velupillai Prabhakaran.
Meanwhile, Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena has appealed people to remain calm and said that security forces were investigating the attacks. "I have been shocked by this totally unexpected incidents. The security forces haven been asked to take all action necessary," Sirisena said.
The Sri Lankan government has summoned an emergency meeting called. All necessary emergency steps have been taken by the government, a minister said, adding that an official statement will be issued soon.
“Horrible scenes. I saw many body parts strewn all over. Emergency crews are at all locations in full force. We, at 1990 also have close to 20 units at the various locations. We took multiple casualties to hospital. Hopefully saved many lives,” Harsha de Silva said.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi also condemned the "horific blasts" in Sri Lanka and expressed his condolences towards the kin of decesed in the attack. "Strongly condemn the horrific blasts in Sri Lanka. There is no place for such barbarism in our region. India stands in solidarity with the people of Sri Lanka. My thoughts are with the bereaved families and prayers with the injured," Modi tweeted.
The Indian High Commission in Colombo said that it was closely monitoring the situation in Sri Lanka. "We are closely monitoring the situation. Indian citizens in need of assistance or help and for seeking clarification may call the following numbers : +94777903082 +94112422788 +94112422789,” the High Commission tweeted.
“In addition to the numbers given, Indian citizens in need of assistance or help and for seeking clarification may also call the following numbers +94777902082 +94772234176,” it said.
(With inputs from PTI)