At least 290 people were killed in the Sri Lanka bombings on churches and hotels — and we still don’t know who did it

At least 290 people were killed in the Sri Lanka bombings on churches and hotels — and we still don’t know who did it
Sri Lanka victim's relative
A relative of a victim of the explosion at St. Anthony’s Shrine, Kochchikade church, reacts at the police mortuary in Colombo, Sri Lanka April 21, 2019.

REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte

  • At least 290 people are dead and 500 others have been injured after eight bombs went off across churches and hotels in Sri Lanka on Sunday.
  • Sri Lankan nationals accounted for most of the dead, but government officials said 35 foreigners were killed in the attacks, including US, British, Indian, Turkish, Chinese, Dutch, Danish, and Portuguese citizens.
  • Police have arrested 24 people, but it isn’t known who was responsible for the attacks yet.
  • The churches were bombed as worshippers attended the Easter service, while the targeted hotels were among the most luxurious in the country.

The death toll in Sri Lanka has risen to 290 after eight bombs went off in churches and hotels across the country on Easter Sunday, in the deadliest violence since its civil war ended in 2009.

It isn’t clear who was responsible for the attacks, which injured a further 500 people. At least 35 foreigners have died. Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner to the UK, Manisha Gunasekera, told the BBC that at least eight British citizens had died. Insider reported on Sunday that two US nationals were also killed.

Police said on Monday that 24 Sri Lankan people had been arrested.

Authorities have also now lifted the curfew imposed overnight across the island. There is still a block on Facebook, WhatsApp, and other social media to prevent the spread of misinformation.

What happened?

According to the BBC, initial blasts were reported from about 08.45 local time (03.15 GMT) on Sunday, with six explosions happening across the country in quick succession.

Explosives went off at three churches in Kochchikade, Negombo and Batticaloa as worshippers attended Easter services.

There were further explosions at luxurious hotels in Sri Lanka’s capital Colombo: The Shangri La, Cinnamon Grand and Kingsbury.

Police carried out raids at addresses in Dematagoda and Dehiwala, in and around Colombo, with explosions taking place at both and killing three officers.

A ninth bomb was defused at Colombo airport. An air force spokesman told the AFP that the contraption was “home made”, describing it as “a crude six-foot pipe bomb that was found by the roadside.”

The bulk of the dead are Sri Lankan nationals, and Sri Lankan authorities have not given details about which the attacks was deadliest, nor who might have been responsible.

Minister of economic reforms and public reforms, Harsha da Silva, said 102 Catholics had died at St Sebastian’s in Katuwapitiya, Negombo.

Sri Lanka’s defence minister, Ruwan Wijewardene, did suggest the culprits were religious extremists and likely suicide bombers.

Prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has said security services were aware of a possible attack as long as 10 days before it took place, but that ministers hadn’t been told.

According to Reuters, there are fears that the bombs could spark wider unrest. While Sunday’s attacks appeared to be targeted at Christians, police also reported late on Sunday that there had been a petrol bomb attack on a mosque, and arson attacks on two Muslim-owned shops.

Tom Murray contributed to this report.

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