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More than 100 killed as Easter Sunday blasts hit churches, hotels in Sri Lanka
21.04.19 15:07
More than 100 killed as Easter Sunday blasts hit churches, hotels in Sri Lanka
At least 130 people were killed and hundreds more injured after a series of blasts shook Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday. A wave of near-simultaneous explosions rocked three churches and three luxury hotels, officials said, leaving nearly 500 people hospitalized from injuries. Police later reported a seventh explosion, the fourth at a hotel, near the national zoo in an area near the capital Colombo. The government declared an island-wide curfew and said it had shut down access to major social media sites and messaging services to prevent misinformation and rumors. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe had convened the country's top military officials at an emergency meeting of the National Security Council. "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," he said on Twitter. A security official told The Associated Press that two of the blasts were suspected to have been carried out by suicide bombers. The official spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak with reporters. There were no immediate claims of responsibility for the attacks. The first blast ripped through St. Anthony's Shrine in Colombo. The church and the three hotels in the country's capital are frequented by foreign tourists. Image:People gather outside St. Anthony's Shrine where a blast happened, in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Sunday, April 21, 2019.Eranga Jayawardena / AP A second explosion was reported at St. Sebastian's Church in Negombo, a Catholic majority town north of Colombo. More than 50 people were killed in that blast alone, a police official told Reuters, with pictures showing bodies on the ground, blood on the pews and a destroyed roof. Father Edmond Tillekeratne, the social communications director of the Archdiocese of Colombo, was near St. Sebastian's when the explosion happened."I was close by, so I ran there. I saw the aftermath with my own eyes," he told NBC News."The rooftop is completely destroyed. The flesh of the people is on the walls and all over the place." The third church that was targeted is in the eastern town of Batticaloa. Pope Francis denounced the "cruel violence" and said he is praying for all those who are suffering from the bloodshed. Francis added an appeal at the end of his traditional Easter Sunday blessing to address the massacre. Speaking from the loggia of St. Peter's Basilica, Francis said: "I want to express my loving closeness to the Christian community, targeted while they were gathered in prayer, and all the victims of such cruel violence." He added: "I entrust to the Lord all those who were tragically killed and pray for the injured and all those who are suffering as a result of this dramatic event." The first three hotels hit were the Shangri-La Colombo, Kingsbury Hotel and Cinnamon Grand Colombo. Harsha de Silva, a government minister, said on Twitter there were foreigners among the many casualties. “Horrible scenes. I saw many body parts strewn all over,” de Silva said in a tweet. “Emergency crews are at all locations in full for
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