At least 150 people died and 560 were left injured in eight blasts in Colombo, Negombo and Batticaloa in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday. While Negombo is 20 km north of Colombo along the western coast of the island, Batticaloa is on the eastern coast.

Three churches and three high-end hotels were targeted in a dastardly attack on Sunday morning at a time when hundreds were gathered at the religious places for prayer services. This was the biggest ever terror attack in the country since the end of the Sri Lankan civil war.

Among the dead were at least 30 foreigners – all in Colombo. Reports suggest that the foreign nationals killed in attack include British, Dutch, Americans and Japanese among others.

The blasts took place at the St. Anthony’s Church in Kochchikade area in Colombo, the St. Sebastian’s Church in Katuwapitiya in Negombo and a third church in Batticaloa.

The hotels which were hit by explosions include Colombo’s Shangri-La Hotel and Cinnamon Grand Hotel. Police say that the Kingsbury Hotel in the capital, too, was hit.

Two more explosions took place at Dehiwela and Dematagoda in Colombo. Reports in Sri Lankan media state that at least two people were killed in the Dehiwela blast, which takes the death toll to at least 150.

Harsha de Silva, the Minister of Economic Reforms and Public Distribution, said on Twitter that a night curfew has been imposed and social media has been temporarily banned.

“Minister @RWijewardene addressing the press just now says action will be taken to stop activity of all extremist groups in the country. Social media temporary banned. 12 hour curfew from 6pm. The Dehiwela n Dematagoda blasts seem to be by those in the ring running from the law,” de Silva tweeted.

 

He also rejected rumours of a blast in Town Hall.

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena said, “I have given instructions to take very stern action against the persons who are responsible for this conspiracy.”

In a statement issued by his office, Sirisena also appealed for calm.

The country’s Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, who chaired an emergency meeting, said, “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.”

 

Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera said on Twitter the attacks appeared to be a “well-co-ordinated attempt to create murder, mayhem and anarchy” and had killed “many innocent people”.

 

Sri Lankan media reported that two of the explosions occurred at the same time, at around 8:45 am.

All the churches and hotels were sealed off by Sri Lankan security officials. The military was deployed to guard all the establishments.

Photos circulating on Twitter showed rubble from tiles of the roof of St Anthony’s church and glass strewn on the floor. Many of those participating in the Easter Sunday mass were seen lying on the ground amid the debris. The explosion apparently happened inside the church during the mass.

St Sebastian Church appealed for help on its Facebook page.

It is not clear what triggered the explosions but Sri Lankan security officials said they were checking for details. Reports quoting the police, however, say that the eight explosion was a suicide blast.

Initial reports suggest that church-goers may have been specifically targeted on the occasion of Easter. The Sri Lankan police are yet to issue an official statement.

No group has claimed responsibility for the blasts.

President Kovind, PM Modi express grief

President Ram Nath Kovind condemned the terror attack and offered condolences.

“India condemns the terror attacks in Sri Lanka and offers its condolences to the people and government of the country. Such senseless violence, aimed at innocent people, has no place in civilised society. We stand in complete solidarity with Sri Lanka,” the President tweeted.

 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi also condemned the blasts and said that India stands in solidarity with the people of Sri Lanka.

“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,” the PM wrote on Twitter.

 

ANI reports that the PM had telephone conversations with Sri Lankan President and Prime Minister during which he conveyed heartfelt condolences at the loss of over 150 innocent lives.

Terming them as cold-blooded and pre-planned barbaric acts, Prime Minister Narendra Modi pointed out that these attacks were another grim reminder of the most serious challenge posed to the entire humanity by terrorism in our region and the entire world.

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said that she is in constant touch with Indian High Commissioner in Colombo.

Read More | We are keeping a close watch: Sushma Swaraj on Colombo explosions

The High Commission also released phone numbers where Indian citizens can approach for any assistance.

World mourns with Sri Lanka

UK Prime Minister Theresa May condemned the Sri Lanka bombings.

“The acts of violence against churches and hotels in Sri Lanka are truly appalling, and my deepest sympathies go out to all of those affected at this tragic time. We must stand together to make sure that no one should ever have to practise their faith in fear,” May said on Twitter.

 

European Union President Jean-Claude Juncker expressed his “horror and sadness” upon learning of the blasts.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said: “Terrible reports from Sri Lanka about bloody attacks on hotels and churches on this Easter Sunday.”

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern described the attack as “devastating”.

“New Zealand condemns all acts of terrorism, and our resolve has only been strengthened by the attack on our soil on the 15th of March. To see an attack in Sri Lanka while people were in churches and at hotels is devastating. New Zealand rejects all forms of extremism and stands for freedom of religion and the right to worship safely. Collectively we must find the will and the answers to end such violence,” she said in a statement.