On Sunday morning, as people began their Easter celebrations, a series of six explosions rocked three churches and three hotels across the nation of Sri Lanka. Two more explosions occurred later in the day.
The reported death toll hasn’t been standard across news agencies, however, conservative estimates have placed it somewhere between 130 and 150, while other sources suggest that more have been killed. Most news agencies are reporting that at least 500 have been injured.
The targeted churches were in Colombo, Negombo, and Batticaloa, according to The New York Times, while the targeted hotels, the Cinnamon Grand, the Kingsbury, the Shangri-La, and the Topical Inn, are all within Sri Lanka’s capital city of Colombo.
The attacks appear to be coordinated, despite the explosions spanning a distance of more than 130 miles from Batticaloa to Negombo and Colombo.
Video: 20 people dead and over 180 injured in a series of blasts in Colombo, Sri Lanka. pic.twitter.com/xPGJ5OeflC
— Ahmer Khan (@ahmermkhan) April 21, 2019
According to AFP, an alert was sent out on April 11 by Sri Lankan Police Chief Pujuth Jayasundara, stating: “A foreign intelligence agency has reported that the NJT (National Thowheeth Jama’ath) is planning to carry out suicide attacks targeting prominent churches as well as the Indian high commission in Colombo.”
The outlet adds that the NJT is “a radical Muslim group in Sri Lanka.” The information regarding the terrorism warning allegedly comes from “documents seen by” the news agency.
The Guardian reports that Defense Minister Ruwan Wijewardene has issued a statement claiming to have identified the suspects.
“We have taken all the necessary precautions to keep this country safe and the people safe,” Wijewardene said. “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.”
Despite the minister’s remarks, neither the identities of those responsible for the horrific attacks, nor their affiliations, have been released to the public.
Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has sent out a tweet condemning the attacks, and asking that citizens refrain from spreading “unverified” information:
Reuters reports that a curfew has been put in place and that access to several social media sites has been “blocked” in Sri Lanka following the attacks
As security in the nation tightens, world leaders have condemned the attacks and voiced support for the Sri Lankan people.
Narendra Modi, the prime minister of India, tweeted: “Strongly condemn the horrific blasts in Sri Lanka. There is no place for such barbarism in our region. India stands in solidarity with the people of Sri Lanka. My thoughts are with the bereaved families and prayers with the injured.”
Former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull tweeted: “The peace of Easter shattered by the senseless and cowardly attacks on Christian worshippers in Sri Lanka. We send our love and sympathy to the families of the victims and pray the injured have a speedy recovery.”
U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May tweeted: “The acts of violence against churches and hotels in Sri Lanka are truly appalling, and my deepest sympathies go out to all of those affected at this tragic time. We must stand together to make sure that no one should ever have to practice their faith in fear.”