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Easter Blasts in Sri Lanka – UPDATE

The death toll has risen to nearly 300 in the aftermath of seven suicide bombers in churches and hotels across Sri Lanka on Sunday.

Two dozen people have been arrested in connection with the bomb blasts that occurred as Easter services were being conducted in the mostly Buddhist nation. Islamic militant group,  National Thowheed Jamath, Sri Lankan officials said foreign intelligence agencies had warned of the attack, and the names of several of those arrested were on those reports.

In addition to the suicide bombers, a six-foot-long pipe bomb was located at Bandaranike International Airport and was disposed of by the Sri Lankan Air Force Explosives Ordinance Disposal Unit.

At least 6 explosions ripped through Sri Lanka today, Easter Sunday, targeting churches and hotels.

More than 200 people are known dead from the attacks, and more deaths are expected. Three churches in Negombo, Batticaloa and Colombo’s Kochchikade district were targeted during Easter services.The Shangri-La, Kingsbury, Cinnamon Grand and a fourth hotel, all in the capital Colombo, were also hit.

Dash cam footage shows the bomb blast at St. Anthony’s during Easter services.

A national curfew has been put in place “until further notice” and social media networks have been temporarily blocked. Reports say seven people have been arrested, but it not yet clear who is responsible for the attacks. Sri Lanka’s defense minister said the attacks were most likely carried out by one group.

Long lines formed to donate blood for the victims. One man said, “Everyone had just one intention and that was to help the victims of the blast, no matter what religion or race they may be. Each person was helping another out in filling forms.”

“There were huge crowds and roads congested as people tried to park wherever and enter the blood center,” he added. “Currently they are taking down the name, blood group and contact number of persons who are willing to donate blood, and asking them to return only if a representative of the National Blood Center contacts them.”

Among those killed in Colombo were at least nine foreign nationals, hospital sources told the BBC.

A UK professor who was staying at the Shangri-La Hotel said he could “smell blood everywhere”, with people injured in the blast needing treatment and searching for missing family members.

“It’s awful seeing kids carried off covered in blood,” he said. “I left Sri Lanka 30 years ago as a refugee and never thought I had to see this again.”

Security has been stepped up at hotels, churches and airports around the country.

Sri Lanka, which is overwhelmingly Buddhist (70.4%), has a small population of Christians (7.4%), mostly Catholic, and is 9.7% Muslim and 12.6% Hindi.

 

Sarah Morton

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