The Sri Lankan government temporarily blocked social media websites on Sunday and imposed a 12-hour curfew from 6 pm after eight deadly blasts rocked the country since morning, Daily Mirror and other news agencies reported.
At least 207 people, including 35 foreigners, were killed in the blasts six of which occurred in the morning as Easter masses were going on. More than 450 were injured.
In the morning, one explosion took place at St Anthony’s Church in Kochchikade, Colombo, and another at St Sebastian’s Church in Katuwapitiya, local news website Daily Mirror reported. According to various reports, three hotels in Colombo – the Shangri La, Cinnamon Grand and Kingsbury hotels – were also hit. At least 67 people were killed in the explosion at a church in Negombo – north of the capital – and 25 at a church in Batticaloa around 8.45 am as the Easter masses were in progress, AFP police spokesperson Ruwan Gunasekera as saying.
The eighth blast, carried out by suicide attackers, hit Colombo in the afternoon, just minutes after at least two people were killed in Dehiwala, AFP quoted the police as saying. The police said three police officers were killed in the eighth explosion. Easter Masses scheduled for the evening across the country were cancelled, according to Daily Mirror.
India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said her ministry is keeping a close watch on the situation. “I am in constant touch with Indian High Commissioner in Colombo,” she said on Twitter.
Meanwhile, the Iwndian High Commission in Colombo shared helpline numbers for Indian citizens: +94777903082, +94112422788, +94112422789, +94777902082 and +94772234176.
Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe condemned the attacks. “I call upon all Sri Lankans during this tragic time to remain united and strong,” he said on Twitter. “Please avoid propagating unverified reports and speculation. The government is taking immediate steps to contain this situation.”
Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena said he was shocked by the explosions and appealed for calm. The defence minister ordered night curfew after the blasts, reported AFP.
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi said there is no place for “barbarism in our region”. “Strongly condemn the horrific blasts in Sri Lanka...India stands in solidarity with the people of Sri Lanka. My thoughts are with the bereaved families and prayers with the injured,” he said on Twitter.
Alert issued 10 days ago
Meanwhile, AFP news agency reported that on April 11, the country’s police chief Pujuth Jayasundara had sent an intelligence warning to top officers to warn that suicide bombers planned to hit “prominent churches” as well as the Indian high commission in Colombo. The alert cited a “foreign intelligence agency”.