Colombo, Apr 21: A series of eight blasts ripped through churches and high-end hotels in and near the Sri Lankan capital on Easter Sunday, killing more than 200 people, including 22 foreigners, and wounding hundreds in the worst violence since the civil war ended in 2009 in the island nation.
Reports said an Indian national from Kasargod in Kerala also died in the blasts. An Western news agency said that US, British and Dutch citizens were also among those killed in the explosions. The Chinese state newspaper People's Daily said one Chinese national was also killed, while state news agency Xinhua said four others were injured.
No organisation has claimed responsibility for the explosions, but Sri Lanka's defence minister said the authorities have arrested seven suspects following the blasts.
The ministry said a majority of the explosions were suicide bombings.
Nationwide curfew Worshippers were targeted at the Kochikade, St Sebastian and Batticaloa churches during mass, while the other locations were Hotel Shangri La, Cinnamon Grand and Kingsbury hotel. After a few hours, two more explosions were reported in the suburb of Orugodawatta and Dehiwala.
The Sri Lanka government declared a 12-hour curfew from 6 pm -t 6 am Monday with immediate effect. It also announced shutdown of major social media sites and all messaging services. Soon after the blasts, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe met his cabinet colleagues to take stock of the situation.
Wickremesinghe condemned the attacks and called upon all Sri Lankans to remain united and said the government is taking immediate steps to contain the situation. President Maithripla Sirisena expressed deep pain and dismay over the brutal attacks on places of religious worship and other civilian establishments.
Sirisena said that he had instructed all law enforcement agencies and defence services to take every possible step to maintain law and order and conduct speedy investigations into the attacks and bring those behind the conspiracy to book. Opposition leader Mahinda Rajapaksa also condemned the attacks and said whoever behind the attacks must be dealt with immediately.
Leader of the main Tamil party, Tamil National Alliance R. Sampanthan taking to Twitter urged the president and prime minister to take necessary steps to identify the perpetrators of the attacks and bring them before justice.
South Block condemns blasts India strongly condemned the serial blasts and said it is monitoring the the situation in the island nation. The Ministry of External Affairs in a statement said, "India has always opposed and rejected terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, and has urged concerted action by the international community against terrorism, including cross-border terrorism. There can be no justification whatsoever for any act of terror.
"We call for perpetrators of such ghastly and heinous act and those who provide them support to be brought to justice expeditiously.
Earlier, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that there was no place for such barbarism in the region and India stands in solidarity with the people of Sri Lanka. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said India is keeping a "close watch" on the situation following the blasts.
"I am in constant touch with Indian High Commissioner in Colombo. We are keeping a close watch on the situation," Swaraj said in a Tweeter post. World leaders, including US president Dnald Trump, German president Angela Merkel, Russian president Valdimir Putin and the Pope have all condemned the attacks.
A total of eight blasts reportedly took place on Sunday in Sri Lanka, hitting three churches and four hotels in and around the country's capital of Colombo and other cities, local media reported.
The first blast occurred at 0845 hrs this morning in St Anthony's Church in Kochchikade and the other at St Sebestian's Church in Katuwapitiya, Katana.
Analysts say that militant groups, including IS and Al-Qaida in the Indian subcontinent, are becoming increasingly active in South Asia, with their affiliates also focusing on countries other than Afghanistan and Pakistan, where they are already quite strong.
"I don't think that radical Buddhist groups have the capacity to launch such well-coordinated and high-level attacks. Furthermore, radical Buddhists would most likely have not chosen to attack churches. For similar reasons, it seems unlikely that militant Tamil outfits would have perpetrated these attacks.
"In my opinion, the nature of attacks and the selection of churches on Easter Sunday bear the hallmark of international jihadist groups like Al-Qaida or 'Islamic State' (IS) and/or their local affiliates,"s aid Siegfried O. Wolf, South Asia expert at the Brussels-based South Asia Democratic Forum.UNI