FLASH: Hundreds more injured and are being treated in hospitals; Casualties include foreigners, government minister says.
By Israel Hayom
Seven people were arrested and three police officers were killed during a raid on a house in Colombo on Sunday as the death toll from a rash of bombings at churches and hotels in Sri Lanka rose past 200, police and local media said.
Near-simultaneous blasts that rocked three churches and three luxury hotels in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday, Sri Lanka’s transportation minister reported Sunday afternoon.
The government has imposed a curfew from 6:00p Sunday evening until 6:00a Monday morning as a manhunt for the perpetrators was underway.
Two of the blasts were suspected to have been carried out by suicide bombers, according to the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak with reporters. Worshippers and hotel guests were among the dead, the official said.
The magnitude of the bloodshed recalled Sri Lanka’s decadeslong civil war, when separatist Tamil Tigers and other rebel groups targeted the Central Bank, a shopping mall, a Buddhist temple and hotels popular with tourists.
No one has claimed responsibility for Sunday’s blasts.
St. Anthony’s Shrine and the 3 hotels where the blasts took place are in Colombo, and are frequented by foreign tourists. A National Hospital spokesman, Dr. Samindi Samarakoon, told AP they received 47 dead, including nine foreigners, and were treating more than 200 wounded.
Local TV showed damage at the Cinnamon Grand, Shangri-La and Kingsbury hotels.
The Shangri-La’s 2nd-floor restaurant was gutted in the blast, with the ceiling and windows blown out. Loose wires hung and tables were overturned in the blackened space.
A police magistrate was at the hotel to inspect the bodies recovered from the restaurant. From outside the police cordon, three bodies could be seen covered in white sheets.
Alex Agieleson, who was near the shrine, said buildings shook with the blast, and that a number of injured people were carried away in ambulances.
Other blasts were reported at St. Sebastian’s Church in Negombo, a majority Catholic town north of Colombo, and at Zion Church in the eastern town of Batticaloa. St. Sebastian’s appealed for help on its Facebook page.
The explosion ripped off the roof and knocked out doors and windows at St. Sebastian’s, where people carried the wounded away from blood-stained pews, TV footage showed.
Sri Lankan security officials said they were investigating. Police immediately sealed off the areas.
Sri Lankan security forces in Y 2009 defeated Tamil Tiger rebels who had fought to create an independent homeland for the country’s ethnic minority Tamils. The UN initially estimated the death toll from 26 years of fighting to be about 100,000, but a UN experts’ panel later said some 45,000 ethnic Tamils may have been killed in the last months of the fighting alone.
Government troops and the Tamil Tigers were both accused of grave human rights violations, which prompted local and international calls for investigations.
Paul Ebeling, Editor