At least 138 people are feared dead and almost 500 have been injured in six near-simultaneous explosions that rocked three churches and three hotels in Sri Lanka.
The attackers appear to have targeted Easter Sunday services at St Anthony’s Church in Colombo, St Sebastian’s Church in Negombo, and another church in Batticaloa. The Shangri La, Cinnamon Grand and Kingsbury hotels were also hit.
At least nine foreign nationals are believed to be among the dead, hospital sources told reporters.
Footage circulating on social media shows the roof blown off one of the churches, with the floor littered with debris and blood.
#BREAKING: Massive explosions strike 3 churches and 3 hotels in coordinated Easter Sunday attack in Sri Lanka. At least 160 dead, 368 injured.
Join me in praying for the families of the victims & the injured. 🙏 #EasterSunday pic.twitter.com/5LqqQtJotK
— Hananya Naftali (@HananyaNaftali) April 21, 2019
An explosion reported at the premises of the St. Anthony's Church in Kochchikade Colombo #lka pic.twitter.com/3qlNBvV0Q0
— Aashik Nazardeen (@aashikchin) April 21, 2019
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said on Twitter: “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.”
He also urged people to “avoid propagating unverified reports and speculations”, assuring his citizens that the government is taking immediate steps to contain the situation.
According to the AFP, Sri Lanka’s police chief Pujuth Jayasundara made a nationwide alert earlier this month, warning top officers that Islamic suicide bombers planned to hit “prominent churches”.
“A foreign intelligence agency has reported that the National Thowheeth Jama’ath [an Islamic organization based in Tamil Nadu, India], is planning to carry out suicide attacks targeting prominent churches as well as the Indian high commission in Colombo,” the alert said.
Prime Minister of Inda Chowkidar Narendra Modi also condemned the attacks, saying “there is no place for such barbarism in our region.”