At least 7 blasts at churches and hotels
Five Britons among dozens of foreigners killed – foreign ministry
Churches were full of people attending Easter services
Suicide bombers ‘behind at least two of the attacks’
Death toll rising rapidly, hospitals overcome with injured
Eight suspects arrested
World leaders and cricket stars have reacted with horror
At least 208 people were killed and more than 450 injured as a wave of suspected suicide bombings tore through churches and five-star hotels in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday.
Three British citizens and two UK-US dual citizens were among the fatalities as six coordinated morning blasts targetted foreign and local families in three hotels in the capital, Colombo, and Christians worshipping in three high profile churches across the country.
Two further blasts occurred hours later at a smaller Colombo hotel and in a residential area where seven arrests were made in connection with the worst violence on the South Asia island since the end of its decades-long civil war in 2009.
The authorities, who imposed a 12-hour curfew on the Indian Ocean island, have not said who staged the attacks and nobody has claimed responsibility.
Speaking to reporters, Ranil Wickremesinghe, the prime minister said that the suspects names had been “local” but he added that investigators were probing whether the attackers had any “overseas links.”
The Shangri-La, Kingsbury and Cinnamon Grand hotels, popular with foreign tourists, were targetted as guests sat down to enjoy their Sunday breakfast.
In a chilling detail, a manager at the Cinnamon Grand said the attacker waiting patiently in a queue for the Easter Sunday breakfast buffet at the Taprobane restaurant before setting off explosives strapped to his back.
The man, who had checked in the night before, was carrying a plate and was about to be served when he unleashed his devastating bomb.
“There was utter chaos,” the manager told AFP. “It was 8:30 am and it was busy. It was families,” he said. “One of our managers who was welcoming guests was among those killed instantly.”
As details of the horror emerged, local celebrity TV chef Shantha Mayadunne and her London-based daughter Nisanga were among the first victims named.
Nisanga had posted a selfie of their happy group just minutes before the deadly blast, captioning it: “Easter breakfast with my family.”
Most of several dozen foreign victims, including Dutch, Portuguese, Chinese, Indian, Chinese and Turkish, were believed to have been killed at the hotels.
The Sri Lankan foreign ministry said 25 unidentified people believed to be foreigners had been brought to the Colombo judicial medical officer’s mortuary and that 19 foreign nationals had been hospitalised.
James Dauris, Britain’s High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, confirmed that British citizens were caught up in the blast but he did not release further details.
“I’ve been speaking this afternoon with Brits in hospital who have been affected by today’s senseless attacks. My team’s and my thoughts go out to all those people who are suffering as a result of the deplorable violence Sri Lanka has witnessed this Easter Sunday,” he said.
The government ordered a social media blackout in Sri Lanka to prevent public panic from false rumours, but it also hampered efforts by friends and family to make contact with loved ones.
A doctor at the Lady Ridgeway Children hospital in Colombo told the Telegraph that a number of children had arrived alone.
“People have brought children who were injured…we are waiting for the parents to come,” he said
Nalini Somalatha, said she was struggling to find news of her son Nalin, 25, who had gone to church with his Christian girlfriend.
“I heard about the blasts and I called my son.. but there was no response,” said the desperate mother who later found out that Nalin’s girlfriend had died.
Before the blackout, harrowing images had emerged from the aftermath of powerful bombs that blasted through the packed pews of St Anthony’s Shrine in Colombo, the Zion Church in the eastern city of Batticaloa, and St Sebastian’s in Negombo, a city about 20 miles north of the capital.
The explosions were so powerful that they blew out roof tiles, splintered wood and smashed altars and religious icons.
Photos posted to social media in an appeal for help showed lifeless bodies strewn across the rubble. At St Anthony’s, where at least 160 parishioners were injured, eyewitnesses described a “river of blood” among the debris.
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