At least 207 people were killed and hundreds were injured in a series of bombing attacks on several churches and hotels in Sri Lanka throughout Easter Sunday, police and officials said. Sri Lanka’s defense minister said seven suspects have been arrested.
The first six blasts were triggered almost simultaneously on Sunday morning. Three high-end hotels and one church in the capital, Colombo, were hit, while two additional churches were targeted elsewhere in the country during Easter services, Sri Lankan police said.
Hours later, a seventh explosive was set off near a hotel in Dehawali, just south of Colombo, killing at least two people, and moments after that another bomb was detonated in a northern neighborhood of the capital, killing three, police said.
According to police, the eighth attack was a suicide bombing.
The source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the suicide bomber detonated his explosives when officers entered a house in a northern suburb of the capital Colombo to carry out a search. Three officers were killed in the blast.
After the second wave of attacks, Sri Lanka’s defense ministry ordered a night-time curfew across the country, and authorities “temporarily” blocked access to social media websites and applications “in order to prevent incorrect and wrong information being spread,” Udaya R. Seneviratne, secretary to the country’s president, said in a statement.
The sites hit in the bombings were all heavily frequented by tourists, and at least 35 foreign nationals were killed in the explosions, police told AFP. A hospital source said Americans, British and Dutch citizens were among the dead.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility.
Sri Lanka’s police chief issued a nationwide alert 10 days before the bomb attacks that suicide bombers planned to target “prominent churches,” according to the warning seen by AFP.
“A foreign intelligence agency has reported that the NTJ (National Thowheeth Jama’ath) is planning to carry out suicide attacks targeting prominent churches as well as the Indian high commission in Colombo,” said the alert, which was sent by police chief Pujuth Jayasundara to top officers.
The NTJ is a radical Muslim group in Sri Lanka that came to notice last year when it was linked to the vandalization of Buddhist statues.