NATIONAL NEWS

Easter Sunday Bomb Blasts Kill More Than 200 In Sri Lanka

Apr 21, 2019, 10:24 AM | Updated: Jun 8, 2022, 5:10 pm
COLOMBO, SRI LANKA - APRIL 21: Sri Lankan security forces secure the area around St. Anthony's Shri...
COLOMBO, SRI LANKA - APRIL 21: Sri Lankan security forces secure the area around St. Anthony's Shrine after an explosion hit St Anthony's Church in Kochchikade on April 21, 2019 in Colombo, Sri Lanka. At least 207 people have been killed and hundreds more injured after multiple explosions rocked three churches and three luxury hotels in and around Colombo as well as at Batticaloa in Sri Lanka during Easter Sunday mass. According to reports, at least 400 people were injured and are undergoing treatment as the blasts took place at churches in Colombo city as well as neighboring towns and hotels, including the Shangri-La, Kingsbury and Cinnamon Grand, during the worst violence in Sri Lanka since the civil war ended a decade ago. Christians worldwide celebrated Easter on Sunday, commemorating the day on which Jesus Christ is believed to have risen from the dead. (Photo by Stringer/Getty Images)
(Photo by Stringer/Getty Images)
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — More than 200 people were killed and hundreds more wounded in eight bomb blasts that rocked churches and luxury hotels in or near Sri Lanka’s capital on Easter Sunday — the deadliest violence the South Asian island country has seen since a bloody civil war ended a decade ago.

Defense Minister Ruwan Wijewardena described the bombings as a terrorist attack by religious extremists and said seven suspects had been arrested, though there was no immediate claim of responsibility. He said most of the blasts were believed to have been suicide attacks.

The explosions at three churches and three hotels collapsed ceilings and blew out windows, killing worshippers and guests. People were seen carrying the wounded out of blood-spattered pews. Witnesses described powerful explosions, followed by scenes of smoke, blood, broken glass, alarms going off and victims screaming.

“People were being dragged out,” said Bhanuka Harischandra, of Colombo, a 24-year-old founder of a tech marketing company who was going to the city’s Shangri-La Hotel for a meeting when it was bombed. “People didn’t know what was going on. It was panic mode.”

He added, “There was blood everywhere.”

The three hotels and one of the churches, St. Anthony’s Shrine, are frequented by foreign tourists. Sri Lanka’s Foreign Ministry said the bodies of at least 27 foreigners were recovered and included people from Britain, the U.S., India, Portugal and Turkey. China’s Communist Party newspaper said two Chinese were killed.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said he feared the massacre could trigger instability in Sri Lanka, a country of about 21 million people, and vowed to “vest all necessary powers with the defense forces” to take action against those responsible. The government imposed a nationwide curfew from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.

The Archbishop of Colombo, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, called on Sri Lanka’s government to “mercilessly” punish those responsible “because only animals can behave like that.”

Police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekara said at least 207 people were killed and 450 wounded.

The scale of the bloodshed recalled the worst days of Sri Lanka’s 26-year civil war, in which the Tamil Tigers, a rebel group from the ethnic Tamil minority, sought independence from the Buddhist-majority country. During the war, the Tigers and other rebels carried out a multitude of bombings. The Tamils are Hindu, Muslim and Christian.

Sri Lanka, situated off the southern tip of India, is about 70 percent Buddhist, with the rest of the population Muslim, Hindu or Christian. While there have been scattered incidents of anti-Christian harassment in recent years, there has been nothing on the scale of what happened Sunday.

There is also no history of violent Muslim militants in Sri Lanka. However, tensions have been running high more recently between hard-line Buddhist monks and Muslims.

Two Muslim groups in Sri Lanka condemned the church attacks, as did countries around the world, and Pope Francis expressed condolences at the end of his traditional Easter Sunday blessing in Rome.

“I want to express my loving closeness to the Christian community, targeted while they were gathered in prayer, and all the victims of such cruel violence,” Francis said.

The first six blasts took place nearly simultaneously in the morning in Colombo at St. Anthony’s Shrine — a Catholic church — and the Cinnamon Grand, Shangri-La and Kingsbury hotels.

The two other explosions occurred after a lull of a few hours at St. Sebastian Catholic church in Negombo, a mostly Catholic town north of Colombo, and at the Protestant Zion church in the eastern town of Batticaloa.

Three police officers were killed while conducting a search at a suspected safe house in Dematagoda, on the outskirts of Colombo, when its occupants apparently detonated explosives to prevent arrest, Wijewardena said.

Local TV showed the Shangri-La’s second-floor restaurant was gutted, with the ceiling and windows blown out. Loose wires hung and tables were overturned in the blackened space. From outside the police cordon, three bodies could be seen covered in white sheets.

Foreign tourists hurriedly took to their cellphones to text family and loved ones around the world that they were OK.

One group was on a 15-day tour of the tropical island country, seeing such sites as Buddhist monuments, tea plantations, jungle eco-lodges and sandy beaches. The tour started last week in Negombo, where one of the blasts took place, and was supposed to end in Colombo, but that may be dropped from the itinerary.

“Having experienced the open and welcoming Sri Lanka during my last week traveling through the country, I had a sense that the country was turning the corner, and in particular those in the tourism industry were hopeful for the future,” said Peter Kelson, a technology manager from Sydney.

“Apart from the tragedy of the immediate victims of the bombings, I worry that these terrible events will set the country back significantly,” he said.

Tour group leader Suminda Dodangoda was exasperated at the political problems still convulsing his country.

“We are still at war 33 years later,” he told the tourists.

Sri Lankan security forces defeated the Tamil Tiger rebels in 2009, ending a civil war that took over 100,000 lives, with both sides accused of grave human rights violations.

Harischandra, who witnessed the attack at the Shangri-La Hotel, said there was “a lot of tension” after the bombings, but added: “We’ve been through these kinds of situations before.”

He said Sri Lankans are “an amazing bunch” and noted that his social media account was flooded with photos of people standing in long lines to give blood.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

National News

This undated photo provided by Merced County Sheriff's Office shows 8-month-old Aroohi Dheri, her p...
Olga R. Rodriguez and Stefanie Dazio, Associated Press

‘Our worst fears’: Kidnapped baby, parents, uncle found dead

Police say a baby girl, her parents and uncle have been found dead in a central California orchard two days after they were kidnapped at gunpoint from their business.
7 hours ago
Italy. Lazio. Rome. Via della Conciliazione. St. Peter Basilica. (Photo by: Fotia Francesco/AGF/Uni...
Julia Buckley, CNN

Tourist smashes two statues in the Vatican

A tourist smashed two ancient Roman sculptures into pieces at the Vatican on Wednesday.
1 day ago
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - DECEMBER 03:  Actors Brad Pitt (L) and Angelina Jolie arrive at the premiere of...
ANDREW DALTON AP Entertainment Writer

Angelina Jolie details Brad Pitt abuse allegations in court filing

A court filing Tuesday from Angelina Jolie alleges that on a 2016 flight, Brad Pitt grabbed her by the head and shook her then choked one of their children and struck another when they tried to defend her.
1 day ago
surveillance image of possible shooter...
Associated Press

Police say California serial killer ‘on a mission’ in slayings

A California serial killer seems to be "on a mission" throughout the fatal shooting of six men and the wounding of one woman dating back to last year.
1 day ago
...
Andrew Adams

Relatives scramble to relocate Florida woman to Utah after she lost everything to Ian

Family members were scrambling Tuesday to get a relative in Florida safely to Utah after she lost everything to Hurricane Ian.
1 day ago
FILE - The logo of the Organization of the Petroleoum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is seen outside of...
David McHugh, AP Business Writer

OPEC+ makes big oil cut to boost prices; pump costs may rise

OPEC+ alliance makes big cut to world oil production to boost sagging prices, which could mean rising costs at the pump
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

Hand turning a thermostat knob to increase savings by decreasing energy consumption. Composite imag...
Lighting Design

5 Lighting Tips to Save Energy and Money in Your Home

Advances in lighting technology make it easier to use smart features to cut costs. Read for tips to save energy by using different lighting strategies in your home.
Portrait of smiling practitioner with multi-ethnic senior people...
Summit Vista

How retirement communities help with healthy aging

There are many benefits that retirement communities contribute to healthy aging. Learn more about how it can enhance your life, or the life of your loved ones.
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to choose what MBA program is right for you: Ask these questions before you apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Cloud storage technology with 3d rendering drawer with files in cloud...
PC Laptops

How backing up your computer can help you relieve stress

Don't wait for something bad to happen before backing up your computer. Learn how to protect your data before disaster strikes.
young woman with stickers on laptop computer...
Les Olson

7 ways print marketing materials can boost your business

Custom print marketing materials are a great way to leave an impression on clients or customers. Read for a few ideas to spread the word about your product or company.
young woman throwing clothes to organize a walk in closet...
Lighting Design

How to organize your walk-in closet | 7 easy tips to streamline your storage today

Read our tips to learn how to organize your walk-in closet for more storage space. These seven easy tips can help you get the most out of your space.
Easter Sunday Bomb Blasts Kill More Than 200 In Sri Lanka