Sri Lankan authorities are still counting the dead after eight massive explosions rocked churches and hotels, killing at least 200 and injuring hundreds more.
More than 207 people died and hundreds more injured after six nearly simultaneous explosions struck three churches and three luxury hotels in and just outside of Sri Lanka’s capital on Easter Sunday. They were followed hours later by two more blasts.
A spokesperson for the Sri Lanka police said 207 people died and 450 injured in the series of blasts – marking the bloodshed as among the worst since the South Asian country’s 26-year civil war ended a decade ago.
Multiple fatalities – including nearly a dozen foreigners – resulted among worshipers and hotel guests. With a curfew imposed, police conducted a search operation on the outskirts of Colombo, where that the latest of eight blasts took place.
Defense Minister Ruwan Wijewardena, who described the attacks as a terrorist incident and blamed religious extremists, said Sunday evening that seven suspects have been arrested. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said he feared the violence could trigger instability in the country and its economy.
Last year, there were several incidents of anti-Muslim violence in the country, In fact, there has been a spate of violent attacks by Buddhists against Muslims, especially since the end of the civil war in 2009 between the government and Tamil rebels.
But the churches targeted in today’s bombings were all Christian.
The first explosion occurred around 8:45 a.m. local time, with the deadliest appearing to be 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 – the Shangri La, Cinnamon Grand and Kingsbury Hotel – all in Colombo are frequented by foreign tourists.
The other two blasts occurred in Dematagoda, where the occupants of a safehouse apparently detonated explosives to prevent arrest.
An official told the Associated Press that at least two of the church blasts were believed to have been coordinated attack carried out by suicide bombers.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for Sunday’s blasts.
So Christians and foreigners were deliberately targeted in the bombings. It should be noted that Buddhists have been known to employ suicide bombers in their attacks as well, so any speculation about the identity or motives of the people behind these attacks would be fruitless without more information.