AT least 207 people were killed and hundreds more injured as several churches and hotels were rocked by simultaneous explosions on Easter Sunday in Sri Lanka.
Eight explosions took place, including in three Christian churches and three hotels, some
commonly used by foreign visitors. In addition to those who were killed at least 450 were wounded, according to officials with police, the Colombo Hospital and St. Sebastian Church.
There were at least nine foreigners among the dead in Colombo, according to the officials. Two dual citizens of the U.S. and U.K. were among the dead, as well as one Portuguese citizen and two U.K. citizens, according to the Sri Lankan Ministry of Foreign Affairs. One American was also among the missing. All of the foreigners died in attacks on hotels.
President Donald Trump sent his condolences to the country in an early morning tweet from Mar-a-Lago, where he is spending the Easter holiday.
“The United States offers heartfelt condolences to the great people of Sri Lanka,” he tweeted Sunday morning. “We stand ready to help!”
One of the churches struck by the attack was St. Sebastian’s Church in Negombo, Sri Lanka, which is located about an hour north of the country’s capital of Colombo. The church posted photos of the attack on its Facebook page and pleaded for relatives to “come and help if your family members are there.”
St. Anthony’s Shrine, a Catholic church in Colombo, and Zion Church, in Batticaloa, were also attacked. Colombo, the country’s capital is located on the western side of the island nation, while Batticaloa is on the eastern shore.
Officials who spoke to ABC News were able to confirm at least 24 people were killed at St. Anthony’s Church, 27 died at Batticaloa’s Zion Church and 81 have died at St. Sebastian Church. There were about 500 people at the Easter Mass at St. Sebastian when the explosion took place, according to officials from the church.
Buddhism is the most common religion in Sri Lanka. National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri-Lanka documented the growing number of attacks on Christians in 2018, saying there were 67 from January to September.
Parliamentary member Harsha de Silva said foreigners were among the dead or injured, but did not provide further details.
No one has claimed responsibility for the attacks. But Shri Lankan authorities said at a news conference that three people had been arrested, clarifying an earlier report from the Associated Press that seven suspects were taken into custody.
Sri Lanka has been at times one of the most dangerous locations in the world for terrorist attacks. A civil war that raged for decades between the ruling government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam — known colloquially as the Tamil Tigers or LTTE — officially ended in 2009, but some conflict has continued. As many as 100,000 people were killed in the civil war from 1982 to 2009, according to the U.N.
he U.K. government warns travelers of the risks posed by those visiting the country.
“Terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka can’t be ruled out,” the government advises on its website. “Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places visited by foreigners.”
The U.S. lists Sri Lanka as a Level 1 country, the lowest travel warning.
The country was also divided by a constitutional crisis at the end of 2018 when Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was removed by the country’s president in October, only to later be reinstated in December.
Source: ABC News