by WorldTribune Staff, April 21, 2019
More than 200 Catholic worshipers were killed in coordinated terrorist attacks on three churches and three hotels in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday.
St. Sebastian’s Church, in the city of Negombo, was hit by the first explosion. The terror attack occurred at 8:45 a.m. local time during an Easter service. Dozens were killed.
Sri Lankan Defense Minister Ruwan Wijewardene said the terrorists had been identified and were religious extremists. The wave of attacks was the work of a single group, he said. Thirteen arrests have been made, all of whom are Sri Lankans, police said.
Local media reported 25 people were also killed in an attack on the Zion evangelical church in Batticaloa in Eastern Province.
One of the explosions was at St. Anthony’s Shrine, a Catholic church in Kochcikade, Colombo, a tourist landmark.
The hotels hit in Colombo were the Shangri-La, the Kingsbury, the Cinnamon Grand and the Tropical Inn near the national zoo. There was no word on casualties in the hotels, but a witness told local TV he saw some body parts lying on the ground beside the Tropical Inn.
Sri Lankan police said at least 207 people were killed and 450 injured in the terror attacks.
The archbishop of Colombo, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, called it “a very sad day” and urged the government to identify the attackers and “punish them mercilessly because only animals can behave like that.”
Wijewardene said that the Sri Lankan government declared a curfew effective immediately.
Government officials also said major social media networks and messaging apps, including Facebook and WhatsApp, have been blocked inside the country to prevent misinformation and rumors.
Most of the dead were Sri Lankans. Three UK nationals and two U.S.-UK dual nationals were among the dead. One Dutch, one Chinese, one Portuguese and two Turkish nationals have been killed, their respective foreign ministries have confirmed.
“It was a river of blood,” said N. A. Sumanapala, a shopkeeper working near St. Sebastian’s who rushed to help survivors, according to the New York Times. “The priest came out and he was covered in blood.”
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.