The holy celebration of Easter was shattered this morning when more than 207 people were viciously killed in Sri Lanka as eight bombs ripped through churches and hotels in a coordinated attack meant to take out Christians. More than 500 are injured. Six of these were simultaneous attacks that struck high-end churches and hotels just outside of Sri Lanka’s capital with many foreigners involved. Two more attacks came hours later.
This is the worst bloodshed since the South Asian country’s 26-year civil war ended a decade ago. Seven have been arrested and it is almost certain they are Islamic extremists… most likely of the Tamil Tiger rebels variety. With a curfew imposed, police conducted a search operation on the outskirts of Colombo, where the latest of eight blasts took place.
Defense Minister Ruwan Wijewardena did not mince his words… he called it terrorism and blamed religious extremists. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said he feared the violence could trigger instability in the country and its economy. Wickremesinghe condemned the ‘cowardly’ attacks after calling an emergency security council meeting.
The first explosion went off around 8:45 a.m. local time, with the deadliest explosion appearing to take place at St. Sebastian’s Church in Negombo, a city about 20 miles north of Colombo. Other attacks occurred at St. Anthony’s Shrine in Colombo and Zion Church in the eastern city of Batticaloa. The three hotels that were involved were the Shangri La, Cinnamon Grand, and Kingsbury Hotel. All are in Colombo and are frequented by foreign tourists. The other two blasts occurred in Dematagoda, where the occupants of a safehouse apparently detonated explosives to avoid being arrested.
At least two of the church attacks were carried out by suicide bombers. No one has claimed credit so far for the Easter blasts. “The United States offers heartfelt condolences to the great people of Sri Lanka,” President Trump tweeted in part early Sunday. “We stand ready to help!”
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.
— Ranil Wickremesinghe (@RW_UNP) April 21, 2019
There are many photos from the carnage showing dead bodies and body parts strewn everywhere in rivers of blood. It is not a sight for the faint of heart.
US Ambassador to Sri Lanka Alaina Teplitz offered her condolences over Twitter early Sunday morning. “Deeply saddened by the senseless attacks in Sri Lanka today. Our thoughts are with the victims and their families. We stand with Sri Lanka’s people at this terrible moment,” she tweeted.
Sec Defence and I am at Kochchikade church. Also was at ShangriLa n Kingsbury. PM is on his way from Bentota. Emergency meeting called in a few minutes. Rescue operations underway. Please stay calm and indoors. Many casualties including foreigners.
— Harsha de Silva (@HarshadeSilvaMP) April 21, 2019
From Fox News:
“St. Sebastian’s pleaded for help on its Facebook page. The explosion ripped the roof off the building and knocked out doors and windows. Churches throughout the country have been placed on alert, with many canceling Easter services.
“Foreign tourists on the Classic Sri Lankan tour hurriedly took to their cellphones to text family and loved ones around the world that they were OK after the blasts.
“The group was on a 15-day tour of the tropical island nation, seeing sites including huge Buddhist monuments, tea plantations, jungle eco-lodges and famed sandy beaches.
Heads of Army, Navy, Airforce and IG along with Sec/Def, Sec/For Affairs meeting with @RWijewardene along with a few of us Ministers at MOD. All necessary emergency steps taken by Gov of #SriLanka. Soon official statement will be issued. pic.twitter.com/WkVQdcA5bT
— Harsha de Silva (@HarshadeSilvaMP) April 21, 2019
“Sri Lankan Member of Parliament Harsha de Silva tweeted Sunday of “many casualties including foreigners.”
“Sec Defence and I am at Kochchikade church. Also was at ShangriLa n Kingsbury. PM is on his way from Bentota. Emergency meeting called in a few minutes. Rescue operations underway. Please stay calm and indoors. Many casualties including foreigners,” he posted.
“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,” he continued.
“The Archbishop of Colombo, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, called on Sri Lanka’s government to launch a “very impartial strong inquiry” and to punish those found responsible “mercilessly because only animals can behave like that.”
“There was an outpouring of condemnation from around the world following the attacks.
— Krishna Kant trishul (@TrishulKant) April 21, 2019
“Pope Francis denounced the “cruel violence” at the end of his traditional Easter Sunday blessing.
“Speaking from the loggia of St. Peter’s Basilica, Francis said: “I want to express my loving closeness to the Christian community, targeted while they were gathered in prayer, and all the victims of such cruel violence.”
“He added: “I entrust to the Lord all those who were tragically killed and pray for the injured and all those who are suffering as a result of this dramatic event.”
“British Prime Minister Teresa May tweeted “We must stand together to make sure that no one should ever have to (practice) their faith in fear.”
“New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern condemned the “devastating” attacks, and referred to the March 15 shootings at two mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch in which 50 died.
“New Zealand condemns all acts of terrorism and our resolve has only been strengthened by the attack on our soil,” Ardern said. “New Zealand rejects all forms of extremism and stands for freedom of religion and the right to worship safely.”
“Sri Lankan security forces in 2009 defeated Tamil Tiger rebels who had fought to create an independent homeland for the country’s ethnic minority Tamils. The U.N. initially estimated the death toll from 26 years of fighting to be about 100,000 but a U.N. experts’ panel later said some 45,000 ethnic Tamils may have been killed in the last months of the fighting alone.”
138 people have been killed in Sri Lanka, with more that 600 badly injured, in a terrorist attack on churches and hotels. The United States offers heartfelt condolences to the great people of Sri Lanka. We stand ready to help!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 21, 2019
At least 27 foreigners lost their lives this morning in Sri Lanka. Earlier reports indicated that nationals from the UK, US, Netherlands, and Portugal were among the dead. “It was a river of blood,” said N. A. Sumanapala, a shopkeeper working near St. Sebastian’s who rushed to help survivors, according to the NYT. “The priest came out and he was covered in blood.”
As details of the horror emerged, one hotel manager described how a bomber had checked into the Cinnamon Grand in Colombo under a false name, waited in a queue for a breakfast buffet and then blew himself up.
Deeply saddened by the senseless attacks in Sri Lanka today. Our thoughts are with the victims and their families. We stand with Sri Lanka’s people at this terrible moment.
— Ambassador Teplitz (@USAmbSLM) April 21, 2019
According to The Daily Mail, at least 45 people were killed in Colombo, where three hotels and a church were hit, along with another 67 in the church attack in Negombo, north of the capital, with another 25 dead at a church in the town of Batticaloa, in the east of the country. The seventh explosion in the southern Colombo suburb of Dehiwala killed two people and an eighth in the northern suburb of Orugodawatta killed three police officers during a house search.
According to AFP, an alert was sent out on April 11 by Sri Lankan Police Chief Pujuth Jayasundara, stating: “A foreign intelligence agency has reported that the NJT (National Thowheeth Jama’ath) is planning to carry out suicide attacks targeting prominent churches as well as the Indian high commission in Colombo.”
The outlet adds that the NJT is “a radical Muslim group in Sri Lanka.” The information regarding the terrorism warning allegedly comes from “documents seen by” the news agency.
Christians make up 7.4 percent of the predominantly Buddhist country’s total population of 22.4 million. An estimated 82 percent of Sri Lankan Christians belong to the Roman Catholic Church.
— Daniel Alexander (@daniel86cricket) April 21, 2019
3 churches, 3 hotels attacked in Colombo, #SriLanka on #EasterSunday.#Christian community attacked!
Explosions at :
St. Anthony's Church, Kochchikade
St.Sebastian's Church, Katuwapitiya
Church in Batticaloa
Shangri La hotel
Cinnamon Grand Hotel pic.twitter.com/yYI8OUwoPK
— Geeta Mohan گیتا موہن गीता मोहन (@Geeta_Mohan) April 21, 2019