It Was a River of Blood.
At least eight bombing attacks struck at least three churches in Sri Lanka, along with three five-star hotels favored by foreigners, killing more than 200 people.
As Christians in Sri Lanka gathered on Sunday morning to celebrate Easter Mass, the culmination of Holy Week, powerful explosions ripped through three churches packed with worshipers, leaving hundreds of victims amid a havoc of splintered and blood-spattered pews.
In what the police said were coordinated terrorist attacks carried out by a single group, bombers also struck three hotels popular with tourists. At least 207 people were killed and 450 others injured, a police spokesman, Ruwan Gunasekera, said.
News of the bombings, the largest attack on South Asian Christians in recent memory, rippled out all Easter morning, interrupting celebrations across the world. Pope Francis, after celebrating Mass in St. Peter’s Square, said the attacks had “brought mourning and sorrow” on the most important of Christian holidays.
• The bombings began around 8:45 a.m., and targeted Roman Catholic houses of worship — St. Anthony’s Shrine in Colombo, the capital; St. Sebastian’s Church in Negombo; and Zion Church in Batticaloa — along with three luxury hotels: the Shangri-La, the Cinnamon Grand, and the Kingsbury, all in Colombo.
• At least seven suspects were held in connection with the bombings, Sri Lanka’s defense minister, Ruwan Wijewardene, said. He said that suicide bombers had been behind the explosions.
• A top police official alerted security officials in an advisory 10 days ago about a threat to prominent churches from a radical Islamist group, National Thowheeth Jama’ath. But it was unclear what safeguards, if any, were taken, or if in the end the group played any role in Sunday’s violence. And on Sunday, reflecting frictions within the government, the prime minister pointedly said he had not been informed.
• Sri Lanka temporarily blocked major social media and messaging services, including Facebook and WhatsApp, to curb misinformation, according to the president’s secretary, Udaya Seneviratne.
• At least 27 of the dead were foreigners, several of them American, the authorities said. Other victims were British, Chinese, Dutch and Portuguese nationals, according to officials and news reports.
A wave of explosions as worshipers celebrated Mass
Some of the victims were killed as worshipers gathered for Mass at St. Anthony’s Shrine in Colombo; St. Sebastian’s Church in Negombo, about 20 miles north of Colombo; and Zion Church in the eastern city of Batticaloa, officials said.
The attacks also targeted high-end hotels in the capital, including the Shangri-La, the Cinnamon Grand and the Kingsbury.
Mangala Samaraweera, the Sri Lankan finance minister, called the explosions “a well-coordinated attempt to create murder, mayhem and anarchy.”
A witness, Sarita Marlou, who was at the Shangri-La hotel, wrote in a Facebook post that one blast occurred at 8:57 a.m. in the Table One Restaurant on the third floor where people had gathered for brunch.
“Felt the blast all the way up to the 17th floor where we were sleeping,” she wrote. “Few minutes later, we were asked to evacuate the hotel. While running down the stairs, saw a lot of blood on the floor but we were still clueless as to what really happened.”
Ms. Marlou said the guests had been stuck outside for more than two hours before being ushered back inside as the sun got hot. But they still were not cleared to go back to their rooms, she wrote.
N. A. Sumanapala, a shopkeeper near St. Anthony’s Shrine who said he had run inside to help, said: “It was a river of blood. Ash was falling like snow.”
Seven are arrested in connection with the blasts
Ruwan Wijewardene, the defense minister, said that seven people had been arrested and identified in connection with the attacks. The government also said that suicide bombers had set off the explosions.
“We believe these were coordinated attacks, and one group was behind them,” Mr. Wijewardene said. He urged the news media not to report the names of the attackers or to make them “martyrs.”
Three officers were killed while hunting for the attackers at a housing complex in the Colombo suburb of Dematagoda, officials said. The police said they had found explosives inside one of the apartments and that a firefight had broken out between officers and the suspects inside the building.
One suspect detonated explosives during questioning by the police inside a home in the suburb. Officials at the site said they believed the attacks had been planned there. As the authorities questioned members of the group, another suspect escaped, and was being sought by a circling helicopter.
Mr. Wijewardene said that police units had been put on alert a week ago by the force’s chief inspector, Pujith Jayasundara, about potential attacks on churches. It was unclear what steps had been taken to safeguard against attacks.
Several explosions rock churches and hotels on Easter Sunday in Sri Lanka
At least six explosions rocked churches and hotels in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday. A hospital official said scores were injured and at least two dozen dead. BBC News reports from the scene in Colombo.