Sri Lanka Easter bombings – Brits among 207 killed and 400 injured in Easter Sunday terror attacks on eight churches and hotels

BRITS are believed to be among 207 killed in an Easter Sunday terror attack on eight churches and five-star hotels in Sri Lanka today.

Nearly 500 were injured when suicide bomb blasts ripped through multiple buildings in Colombo – where tourists were staying and Christian worshippers had gathered for morning mass.






Among the dead are 35 foreigners, local reports say, including nationals from the UK, US, China, Netherlands and Portugal.

A terrified British family told how they were caught up in the atrocity as their hotel became a target for the terror.

Julian Emmanuel and his family, from Surrey, were staying at the Cinnamon Grand when the bomb went off.

He told the BBC: "We were in our room and heard a large explosion. It woke us up. There were ambulances, fire crews, police sirens.

"I came out of the room to see what's happening, we were ushered downstairs.

"We were told there had been a bomb. Staff said some people were killed. One member of staff told me it was a suicide bomber."


WHAT WE KNOW SO FAR:

  • At least 207 people killed after suicide bomb blasts at three churches and three hotels in Colombo, Sri Lanka
  • A seventh and eighth explosion in Easter Sunday massacre hours after the first six
  • Tourists from UK, US, China, Portugal and the Netherlands are among the victims – one Dutch, one Chinese and one Portuguese national have been confirmed dead
  • Theresa May brands attack "truly appalling" as world leaders express sorrow
  • Social media ban in place to prevent spread of misinformation, and night curfew imposed
  • Culprits identified, says defence minister Ruwan Wijewardene, and seven arrested
  • Pope Francis condemns the attacks in his Easter Sunday message
  • It comes ten days after Sri Lanka's police chief issued alert on possible attacks to come

Did you witness the attack? Please email us at [email protected] or call 0207 782 4368


Three churches and three hotels – the luxury Shangri-La Hotel, Cinnamon Grand and The Kingsbury Colombo – were targeted in the devastating attacks.

Hours after the first six were reported, there have been two more fatal blasts in the city – an explosion at a hotel in Dehiwala which killed two, and another in a flats in Dematagoda which reportedly killed three police officers and led to arrests, taking the shocking attacks up to eight.

All of of the six explosions this morning – as Christians attended Easter mass – were carried out by suicide bombers, according to initial investigations.

Sri Lanka's minister of defence Ruwan Wijewardene said in a press conference: "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."

He later confirmed seven people have been arrested over the string of deadly blasts.

Dozens of local people rushed to donate blood to help the wounded in the wake of the terrifying attacks, after witnesses reported seeing buildings shake in the explosions.

Shocking images from inside one of the churches show bloodied pews, a destroyed roof and bodies scattered on the ground – as all Easter services planned for this evening in the city were cancelled.

Attacked on Easter Sunday as thousands came to celebrate at church:

Father Edmond Tillekeratne told of the horrors he saw at St Sebastian's Church after an attack there.

He told CNN there were about 30 bodies lying in the church, and the ground was covered in rubble and shattered glass.

He said: "You can see pieces of flesh thrown all over the walls and on the sanctuary and even outside of the church."

The priest said the blast happened after Easter Mass, where he estimated more than 1,000 people had come to celebrate.









With the exact number of Brits caught up in the horrifying attacks unknown at this stage, a spokesman from the Foreign Office said: "We are aware of reports of a number of explosions in Sri Lanka, including Colombo, and we are urgently seeking information from the local authorities.

"British nationals in Sri Lanka should follow the instructions of the local authorities and check FCO travel advice for updates."

Britain’s High Commissioner to Sri Lanka James Dauris added in a statement: “We understand that some British citizens were caught in the blasts but we are unable to say how many people are, or might have been, affected.”

Worshippers were attacked at St Anthony's Shrine, a Catholic Church in Kochchikade, Colombo, St Sebastian's Church in Negombo, a majority Catholic town north of Colombo, and at Zion Church in the eastern town of Batticaloa – where more than 300 people are thought to have been injured.

Dozens of people in Sri Lanka reported a restriction on social media use this morning, following the explosions.

The government confirmed it has shutdown access to Facebook and WhatsApp – a tactic which has been used before in the country to prevent the spread of violence and misinformation.

A night curfew from 6pm to 6am is also in place in the wake of the attacks, the Sri Lanka defence minister announced, with no indication when it will be lifted.

ATTACK WARNINGS

It has emerged Sri Lanka's police chief warned of suicide bombers planning to hit "prominent churches" 10 days before today's attack.

Pujuth Jayasundara reportedly said: "A foreign intelligence agency has reported that the NTJ (National Thowheeth Jama'ath) is planning to carry out suicide attacks targeting prominent churches as well as the Indian high commission in Colombo".

The NTJ is a radical Muslim group in Sri Lanka that was linked last year to the destruction of Buddhist statues.

There has been no immediate claims of responsibility for the attacks in a country which was at war for decades with Tamil separatists until 2009, during which bomb blasts in the capital were common.

Last year, there were 86 verified incidents of discrimination, threats and violence against Christians, according to the National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka (NCEASL).

And there have been recent reports of clashes between Sinhalese Buddhist and Muslim communities, with some hardline Buddhist groups accusing Muslims of forcing people to convert to Islam.

EASTER SUNDAY MASSACRE

Today security officials told how six near simultaneous blasts hit three churches and three hotels popular with tourists.

It is the worst violence in Sri Lanka since the country's bloody civil war ended a decade ago.

The death toll in the shocking attack has risen to 207, according to Sri Lanka's deputy transport minister – with just one of the church attacks said to have seen 300 victims.

Prime Minister Theresa May said: "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 practise their faith in fear."

The British High Commissioner to Sri Lanka condemned the "evil attacks", saying he was in a church service which was cut short by the blasts.

James Dauris tweeted: "Our prayers for the victims of these evil attacks, and for their families. Our thoughts are with the medical staff, police and all involved in the response."

To target Christians on this their most sacred day is evil.

All government schools will be closed and the airport locked down with only passengers allowed in the building, as the Sri Lankan Prime Minister calls for an emergency meeting.

Ranil Wickremesinghe wrote on Twitter: "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. Please avoid propagating unverified reports and speculation. The government is taking immediate steps to contain this situation."

Foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt tweeted: "I'm deeply shocked and saddened by the horrifying attacks on churches and hotels in Sri Lanka today.

"To target those gathered for worship on Easter Sunday is particularly wicked.

"My prayers are with the victims and their families, and with those assisting in the response."

Jess Phillips, MP for Birmingham Yardley, added: "To target Christians on this their most sacred day is evil. Sending love to Sri Lankans caught in this terror."

'COWARDLY TERROR ATTACKS'

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said: "Those affected by the appalling and despicable attacks on churches and hotels in Sri Lanka will be in the prayers of millions marking Easter Sunday around the world today.

"On this holy day, let us stand with the people of Sri Lanka in prayer, condolence and solidarity as we reject all violence, all hatred and all division."

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier wrote in a message to his Sri Lankan counterpart that he was "stunned and horrified" by the "cowardly terror attacks".

And New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, whose country suffered a devastating terror attack last month, said: "New Zealand rejects all forms of extremism and stands for freedom of religion and the right to worship safely."

As world leaders sent messages of sympathy to Sri Lanka, Russian President Vladimir Putin denounced the series of attacks on churches and hotels in Sri Lanka as "cruel and cynical".

And Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said: "I'm appalled by the horrific attacks in Sri Lanka, on Easter Sunday, the most important day in the Christian calendar."

US President Donald Trump tweeted "heartfelt condolences from the people of the United States to the people of Sri Lanka on the horrible terrorist attacks on churches and hotels", adding "we stand ready to help".

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena urged people to stay calm, adding: "I am shocked and saddened by the situation that has occurred."

The Shangri-La's second-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.

Brits in Sri Lanka who need help are urged to call the High Commission in Colombo on +94 11 5390639, while people in the UK worried about friends or family should call the Foreign Office on 020 7008 1500.



The luxury Shangri-La Hotel in Colombo has been gutted by a bomb this morning
















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