Authorities in Sri Lanka have now began a large security operation and imposed a curfew after a wave of explosions in churches and hotels killed more than 150 people and injured hundreds.
The eight blasts, some of which are said to be suicide bomb attacks, appeared timed to cause maximum casualties among worshipers attending Easter services.
In one church, St. Sebastian’s in Katuwapitiya, just north of the capital Colombo, more than 50 people had been killed, according to a police official. Majority of the church roof was blown out in the explosion, with roof tiles and splintered wood littering the floor and pools of blood in between wounded worshipers.
Most of the targets were either in or close to the capital. Among the four hotels targeted was the Cinnamon Grand, a luxury hotel in the center of the city that is favored by top politicians.
Decade after the civil war
The attacks are the most significant in Sri Lanka for many years, and come a decade after the end of a bloody civil war.
One explosion occurred at a hotel near the national zoo, when attackers were reportedly cornered by security forces.
At least 160 people injured in the St Anthony’s blast had been admitted to the Colombo National hospital alone by mid-morning, one official said. The main hospital in the eastern port city of Batticaloa had received more than 300 people with injuries following the blast at the Zion church.
There were no immediate claims of responsibility for the attacks in Sri Lanka. The prime minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, convenened Sri Lanka‘s top military officials at an emergency meeting of the national security council.
“I call upon all Sri Lankans during this tragic time to remain united and strong. Please avoid propagating unverified reports and speculation. The government is taking immediate steps to contain this situation,” Wickremesinghe said on Twitter.
Leaders around the world rushed to condemn the attacks.
The Guardian contributed to this article