Is it safe to travel to Sri Lanka? Tourists warned to ‘stay indoors’ after the Colombo bomb attacks killed 207

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TOURISTS in Sri Lanka have been urged to stay indoors after the Easter Sunday suicide bomb attacks left at least 207 dead and around 500 injured.

The UK Foreign Office issued emergency phone numbers for the thousands of British tourists on the island, as well as families in the UK concerned about their welfare.

The suicide bomb attacks in Sri Lanka targeted churches and hotels
The suicide bomb attacks in Sri Lanka targeted churches and hotels

Officials advised holidaymakers and expats to observe the nationwide curfew put in place by Sri Lankan authorities after the series of deadly blasts.

“You should limit movements until this has been lifted, following the instructions of the local authorities and your hotel/tour operator,” the advice states.

Brits in Sri Lanka have been urged to contact family and friends to let update them about their safety.

“If you are in Sri Lanka and you are safe, we advise that you contact family and friends to let them know that you are safe,” the Foreign Office said.

“If you are in Sri Lanka and have been directly affected by the attacks, please call the British High Commission in Colombo: +94 11 5390639, and select the emergency option from where you will be connected to one of our consular staff.

“If you’re in the UK and worried about British friends or family in Sri Lanka caught up in the incidents, please call the FCO switchboard number: 020 7008 1500 and follow the same steps.

“Security has been stepped up across the island and there are reports of ongoing security operations.

“If you are in Sri Lanka, please follow the advice of local security authorities, hotel security staff or your tour company. The airport is operating, but with increased security checks.

“Some airlines are advising their passengers to arrive early for check-in, in light of increased security screening.”

The Irish Travel Agents Association (ITAA) added: “Travellers are advised to stay indoors where possible and to avoid large gatherings.”

Nearly 500 were injured when suicide bomb blasts ripped through three churches, four hotels and a block of flats in the capital Colombo.

Tourists were slaughtered while eating breakfast and Christian worshippers killed while gathering for morning mass.

Five Brits, including a mum and her two kids, are feared to be among at least 207 killed in the explosions.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has confirmed ‘several’ Americans were also killed- along with victims from the Netherlands, Portugal and China.

Three churches and three hotels – the luxury Shangri-La Hotel, Cinnamon Grand and The Kingsbury Colombo – were targeted in the devastating attacks.

Colombo International Airport was later put on lockdown amid reports of a suspicious package – which was later destroyed by a bomb disposal squad.

All of the six explosions this morning – as Christians attended Easter mass – were carried out by suicide bombers, according to initial investigations.

Sri Lanka’s minister of defence Ruwan Wijewardene said in a press conference: “We believe that all the culprits who have been involved in this unfortunate terrorist incident will be taken into custody as soon as possible.

“They have been identified, and they will be taken into custody as soon as possible.”

He later confirmed 13 people have been arrested over the string of deadly blasts – one of whom is said to have been stopped in a van transporting explosives to the city.

It has emerged Sri Lanka’s police chief warned of suicide bombers planning to hit “prominent churches” 10 days before today’s attack.

Pujuth Jayasundara reportedly said: “A foreign intelligence agency has reported that the NTJ (National Thowheeth Jama’ath) is planning to carry out suicide attacks targeting prominent churches as well as the Indian high commission in Colombo”.

The NTJ is a radical Muslim group in Sri Lanka that was linked last year to the destruction of Buddhist statues.

There has been no immediate claims of responsibility for the attacks in a country which was at war for decades with Tamil separatists until 2009, during which bomb blasts in the capital were common.

Last year, there were 86 verified incidents of discrimination, threats and violence against Christians, according to the National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka (NCEASL).

And there have been recent reports of clashes between Sinhalese Buddhist and Muslim communities, with some hardline Buddhist groups accusing Muslims of forcing people to convert to Islam.

Only around six per cent of majority-Buddhist Sri Lanka is Catholic, but the religion is seen as a unifying force because it includes people from both the Tamil and majority Sinhalese ethnic groups.

The Colombo bombings are the worst violence in Sri Lanka since the country’s bloody civil war ended a decade ago.

An explosion ripped through the luxury Shangri-La Hotel
Reuters

An explosion ripped through the luxury Shangri-La Hotel[/caption]

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AFP or licensors

Pews knocked to the floor and the walls of a church damaged in an attack on Easter Sunday[/caption]

EPA

Multiple buildings have been destroyed throughout the capital this morning – with hundreds of victims[/caption]

Sri Lankan military officials stand guard in front of St Anthony's Shrine
Reuters

Sri Lankan military officials stand guard in front of St Anthony’s Shrine[/caption]

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