Muslim terrorists have hit three churches and three hotels in and around the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo in a coordinated, targeted terror attack on Christians.
The blasts hit several high-end hotels and one church in the capital, while two additional churches were targeted outside Colombo.
A seventh explosion, claiming two lives, took place in Dehiwala near the zoo.
An eighth explosion has been reported from the Sri Lankan capital Colombo. The blast took place near the Dematagoda area. Security forces have launched a search operation at the home of a Muslim terrorist in close proximity to the blast site in Dematagoda following a tip-off that there are more explosives at the location.
At least 215 people were murdered and more than 600 injured in the terror attacks. Among the killed are 35 foreigners from France, United States, Denmark, China, Japan, Pakistan, Morocco, India, Turkey, and Bangladesh.
So far nine foreign nationals are reported to be missing.
Officials say the blasts were carried out by suicide bombers.
A curfew has been imposed across Sri Lanka from 6 pm today to 6 am tomorrow. April 22 and 23 have been declared national days of mourning. Earlier the government had ordered the schools to be closed. The evening Easter masses across Sri Lanka have also been canceled.
In addition, the Sri Lankan government has imposed a temporary social media ban.
“A bomb attack to our church, please come and help if your family members are there,” read a post in English on the Facebook page of the St Sebastian’s Church at Katuwapitiya in Negombo.
A source in the police bomb squad said that one of the explosions was at St Anthony’s Church in Kochcikade, Colombo. “Our people are engaged in evacuating the casualties,” a police source told Reuters.
Sri Lanka Defense Minister Ruwan Wijewardene has urged media not to publicize the names of today’s Muslim terrorists as other terror groups could exploit the situation. “Don’t give extremists a voice. Don’t help to make them martyrs,” he says.
Only around six percent of mainly Buddhist Sri Lanka is Catholic, but the religion is seen as a unifying force because it includes people from both the Tamil and majority Sinhalese ethnic groups.
The United Nations in Sri Lanka condemned the horrific attacks and expressed its condolences to the victims and their families. “The UN in Sri Lanka urges all citizens, all leaders to stand united during these difficult times,” the international body tweeted.
Later on Sunday, a spokesperson of the Sri Lankan air force informed the press that a bomb was found in close proximity to the Bandaranaike International Airport, and was successfully diffused.
According to local reports, President Maithripala Sirisena will be appointing a special investigation committee within the next 24 hours to probe the terrorist attacks.
Sri Lanka Police spokesperson has said that 13 Muslim terrorists were arrested in connection with the attacks. Ten of those detained have been handed over to the Criminal Investigation Department.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe confirmed that the government had prior information about the terror attacks but, failed to take preventive steps. He also told reporters that, according to the information he has received, the terrorists are locals.
The Israeli foreign ministry is checking if any Israelis were injured or murdered in the coordinated terror attacks.
“On behalf of the Israeli people, PM Netanyahu expresses his deep shock following the deadly attacks on innocent citizens in Sri Lanka. Israel stands ready to assist the Srilankan authorities. The entire world must stand together in the fight against the scourge of terrorism”, the PMO said in a statement.