Suspects arrested after blasts kill at least 160 at Sri Lankan churches, hotels

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Suspects arrested after blasts kill at least 160 at Sri Lankan churches, hotels

by - 3 min read

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Seven suspects were arrested Sunday following a series of explosions in Sri Lanka, the country’s defence minister said, as officials estimated the death toll from the attacks has risen to at least 160 people, with hundreds more injured.

Defence Minister Ruwan Wijewardene also announced the government would be imposing a curfew from 6 p.m. until 6 a.m. local time as authorities investigate eight explosions. 

Those killed included more than 30 foreigners, following near simultaneous and co-ordinated explosions that struck three churches and three luxury hotels, in one of the deadliest blasts in the country’s history, government officials said.

Three of the blasts targeted St Anthony’s Church in Colombo, St Sebastian’s Church in the western coastal town of Negombo and another, the Zion church in the eastern town of Batticaloa around 8.45 a.m. local time as the Easter Sunday mass were in progress, a police spokesperson said.

A relative of a victim of the explosion at St. Anthony’s Shrine, Kochchikade church reacts at the police mortuary in Colombo. (Dinuka Liyanawatte/Reuters)

Three other explosions were reported from the five-star hotels — the Shangri-La, the Cinnamon Grand and the Kingsbury in Colombo. Foreigners and locals who were injured in hotel blasts were admitted to the Colombo General Hospital.

Two more explosions were reported hours later on the outskirts of  Colombo, but the targets were not immediately clear.

Harsha de Silva, Sri Lanka’s Minister of Economic Reforms and Public Distribution, said that there have been “many casualties, including foreigners.”

This image made from video provided by Hiru TV shows damage inside a church after a blast in Colombo. (Hiru TV via AP)

Among the 45 bodies at the Colombo National Hospital there are nine foreigners, they said, adding that American and British citizens were among the dead.

The Colombo National Hospital spokesperson, Dr Samindi Samarakoon, said more than 300 people have been admitted with injuries.

Dr. Kalanidhi Ganeshalingam, the spokesperson for the Batticaloa hospital, said over 100 have been admitted with injuries from St. Michael’s Church explosion.

No claim of responsibility

No group has claimed responsibility for Sunday’s attacks.

However, most of the deadly attacks in the past in Sri Lanka were carried out by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) which ran a military campaign for a separate Tamil homeland in the northern and eastern provinces of the island nation for nearly 30 years before its collapse in 2009 after the Sri Lankan Army killed its supreme leader Velupillai Prabhakaran.

Police stand amid the damage left by a blast in the restaurant area of the luxury Shangri-La Hotel in Colombo. (Ishara S. Kodikara/AFP/Getty Images)

The Archbishop of Colombo is calling for those responsible for the Easter Sunday blasts in Sri Lanka to be punished “mercilessly.”

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.”

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was meeting top military officials and tweeted earlier Sunday that “the government is taking immediate steps to contain the situation.”

He described the attacks as “cowardly” and called on the country to remain “united and strong.”

This story originally appeared on CBC

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