A LEAST 156 people – including 35 tourists – have been killed today after explosions ripped through three five-star hotels and three churches in Sri Lanka.
Nearly 500 others are said to be injured after a number of suspected suicide bombs devastated luxury hotels and churches in Colombo, in horrifying Easter Sunday attacks.
Stunned witnesses are calmed by people following an explosion in Colombo[/caption]
More than 100 people have been killed in the devastating blasts on Easter Sunday[/caption]
Inside St Anthony’s Shrine after an explosion hit the church in Kochchikade in Colombo[/caption]
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Two of the six blasts – carried out as Christians attended Easter mass – are thought to have been carried out by suicide bombers, according to a security official.
Hotels frequented by tourists, the luxury Shangri-La Hotel, Cinnamon Grand and The Kingsbury Colombo, were also targeted in the deadly series of attacks.
Stunned witnesses reported seeing injured people being carried out from the rubble of the hotels this morning.
With Brits feared to be involved in the horrifying attacks, a spokesman from the Foreign Office said: “We are aware of reports of a number of explosions in Sri Lanka, including Colombo, and we are urgently seeking information from the local authorities.
“British nationals in Sri Lanka should follow the instructions of the local authorities and check FCO travel advice for updates.”
Worshippers were also attacked this morning, with those at an Easter mass targeted at St Anthony’s Shrine, a Catholic Church in Kochchikade, Colombo – with all Easter services planned for this evening in the city reportedly now cancelled.
Blasts were also reported at St Sebastian’s Church in Negombo, a majority Catholic town north of Colombo, and at Zion Church in the eastern town of Batticaloa – where more than 300 people are thought to have been injured.
Shocking images from inside St Sebastian’s showing bloodied pews, a destroyed roof and bodies scattered on the ground.
EASTER SUNDAY ATTACK
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.
Today Security officials told how six near simultaneous blasts hit three churches and three hotels popular with tourists.
The death toll in the shocking attack has risen to 129, according to AFP, with Reuters reporting “about 100” have died – with just one of the church attacks said to have seen 50 victims.
The British High Commissioner to Sri Lanka condemned the “evil attacks”, saying he was in a church service which was cut short by the blasts.
James Dauris tweeted: “Our prayers for the victims of these evil attacks, and for their families. Our thoughts are with the medical staff, police and all involved in the response.”
To target Christians on this their most sacred day is evil.
Jess Phillips, MP for Birmingham Yardley
All government schools will be closed and the airport locked down with only passengers allowed in the building, as the Sri Lankan Prime Minister calls for an emergency meeting.
Ranil Wickremesinghe wrote on Twitter: “I strongly condemn the cowardly attacks on our people today.
“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.”
Foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt tweeted: “I’m deeply shocked and saddened by the horrifying attacks on churches and hotels in Sri Lanka today.
“To target those gathered for worship on Easter Sunday is particularly wicked.
“My prayers are with the victims and their families, and with those assisting in the response.”
Jess Phillips, MP for Birmingham Yardley, added: “To target Christians on this their most sacred day is evil. Sending love to Sri Lankans caught in this terror.”
Sources from two of the hotels in Colombo confirmed the explosions but did not give any details, according to Reuters.
Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena urged people to stay calm, adding: “I am shocked and saddened by the situation that has occurred.”
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There were 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), which represents more than 200 churches and other Christian organisations.
Out of Sri Lanka’s total population of around 22 million, 70 percent are Buddhist, 12.6 percent Hindu, 9.7 percent Muslim, and 7.6 percent Christian, according to the country’s 2012 census.
The inside of a church devastated by a blast this morning in Colombo[/caption]
Sri Lankan police officers clear the road as an ambulance drives through carrying injured of church blasts in Colombo[/caption]
A shoe is pictured in the street among shattered glass following the attacks in Sri Lanka[/caption]
Rubble and destroyed building fragments were blasted onto the street in suspected bombings[/caption]
A soldier picks through the destruction outside a church targeted in a horrifying attack[/caption]
Sri Lankan military officials stand guard in front of the St. Anthony’s Shrine, Kochchikade church[/caption]
Sri Lankan military officials stand guard in front of St Anthony’s Shrine[/caption]
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