Death Toll In Sri Lanka Blasts Rises To 207 – Police
The toll in a series of eight blasts in Sri Lanka on Sunday has risen to at least 207, with over 450 people wounded, police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera said.
Speaking at a press conference, he said three people had been arrested in connection with the attacks that mostly targeted high-end hotels in the capital and churches where worshippers were attending Easter services.
Gunasekera said the police were investigating whether suicide bombers were involved in all of the blasts.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe condemned the attacks — the worst act of violence since the end of Sri Lanka’s civil war a decade ago — as “cowardly”, as the government imposed an immediate and indefinite curfew across the entire country of 21 million people.
The powerful blasts -– six in quick succession and then two more hours later — left hundreds injured and wrought devastation, including at the capital’s well-known St Anthony’s Shrine, a historic Catholic Church.
At least two of the explosions were carried out by suicide bombers, according to police sources and a hotel official.
Ravinatha Aryasinha, secretary to the foreign ministry, told reporters there were 27 bodies of suspected foreign nationals in the Colombo National Hospital.
A police official said earlier that 35 foreigners were among the dead and hospital sources said British, Dutch and American citizens had been killed, with Britons and Japanese also injured. A Portuguese man and two Chinese citizens were among the dead, news agencies in their countries reported.
World Leaders React
Religious and world leaders have condemned a series of blasts in Sri Lanka that killed more than 200 people including dozens of foreigners — with British, Dutch and American citizens believed to be among them.
Hospital sources also said Japanese citizens were among those injured by the bombs which ripped through high-end hotels and churches holding Easter services.
Here is a summary of the reactions:
Britain: ‘Stand together’
British Prime Minister Theresa May described the attacks as “truly appalling”.
“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,” she tweeted.
“We must stand together to make sure that no one should ever have to practise their faith in fear.”
Trump: ‘Ready to help’
US President Donald Trump tweeted: “Heartfelt condolences from the people of the United States to the people of Sri Lanka on the horrible terrorist attacks on churches and hotels,” he tweeted.
“We stand ready to help!”
The Netherlands: ‘Terrible reports’
“Terrible reports from Sri Lanka about bloody attacks on hotels and churches on this Easter Sunday,” Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte tweeted after the initial news of the attacks.
“Thoughts are with the victims and their relatives.”
Pope: ‘Cruel violence’
Pope Francis expressed his sadness over the attacks during his traditional Easter address at the Vatican.
“I want to express my affectionate closeness with the Christian community, attacked while it was at prayer, and to all the victims of such cruel violence,” he said.
The Catholic Church in Jerusalem had said in an earlier statement: “We pray for the souls of the victims and ask for the speedy recovery of the injured, and ask God to inspire the terrorists to repent of their killing and intimidation.”
Australia: ‘Terrorist attack’
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in a statement: “To the beautiful people of Sri Lanka, Australia sends its heartfelt sympathies and our prayers and our support — and our offer to do whatever we can to support you in this terrible time of need.
“At this time as Easter Sunday draws to a conclusion here in Australia, our heart goes out to those Christians and all of those other innocents who have been slaughtered today in this horrific terrorist attack.”
New Zealand: ‘Devastating’
A month after dozens of Muslims were killed in a shooting at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern described the Sri Lanka 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.”
Pakistan’s leader Imran Khan offered his “profound condolences” to Sri Lanka.
“Strongly condemn the horrific terrorist attack in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday resulting in precious lives lost & hundreds injured,” he tweeted.
“My profound condolences go to our Sri Lankan brethren. Pakistan stands in complete solidarity with Sri Lanka in their hour of grief.”
Narendra Modi, the leader of neighbouring India, condemned the “serial terrorist attacks” in a government statement.
“Terming them as cold-blooded and pre-planned barbaric acts, he 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,” the statement added.
“There is no place for such barbarism in our region,” he tweeted earlier.
EU: ‘Sad day for the world’
EU commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker expressed his “horror and sadness” at the blasts, while EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said the attacks marked “a truly sad day for the country and for the world”.
“Such acts of violence on this holy day are acts of violence against all beliefs and denominations, and against all those who value the freedom of religion and the choice to worship,” she added in a statement.
France: ‘Odious acts’
“We strongly condemn these odious acts,” French President Emmanuel Macron wrote on Twitter.
“Full solidarity with the Sri Lanka people and our thoughts for all those close to the victims this Easter.”
Germany: ‘Malicious attack’
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said, “religious hate and intolerance that have shown themselves in such a terrible way today must not win”.
“It is shocking that people who gathered to celebrate Easter together were consciously targeted in this malicious attack,” Merkel said in a statement published by a spokeswoman on Twitter.
Russia: ‘Cynical crime’
“I would like to reassert that Russia has been and remains a reliable partner of Sri Lanka in combating the threat of international terrorism,” Vladimir Putin said in a Kremlin statement.
“I expect that the masterminds and perpetrators of such a heinous and cynical crime committed in the midst of Easter celebrations will get the punishment they deserve.”
Israel: ‘Deep shock’
“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expresses in the name of Israel’s citizens deep shock over the murderous attacks against innocent civilians in Sri Lanka,” a government statement said.
“Israel is willing to aid the authorities in Sri Lanka in this difficult time. The whole world must unite in the struggle against the scourge of terror.”