Blasts rock churches, hotels in Sri Lanka; multiple fatalities reported

Six nearly simultaneous explosions struck three churches and three high-end hotels frequented by tourists on Easter Sunday in Sri Lanka, killing nearly 156 people and injuring many more, according to police and hospital sources. Multiple fatalities - including 35 foreigners - resulted among worshipers and hotel guests, a police official said, adding that at least two of the church blasts were believed to have been a coordinated attack carried out by suicide bombers.

The first explosions occurred around 8:45 a.m., with the deadliest appearing to be at St. Sebastian’s Church in Negombo, a city about 32 km north of Colombo, the capital. Other attacks occurred at St. Anthony’s Shrine in Colombo and Zion Church in the eastern city of Batticaloa. The three hotels - the Shangri La, Cinnamon Grand and Kingsbury Hotel - all in Colombo, are frequented by foreign tourists.

Photos posted to social media showed blood and debris inside the targeted debris in the targeted places. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe met with senior military personnel in an emergency meeting. He condemned the "cowardly attacks" on Twitter. The explosion ripped the roof off the building and knocked out doors and windows. Churches throughout the country have been placed on alert, with many canceling Easter services. A police official told Agence France-Presse that 45 people died in Colombo, 67 in Negombo and another 25 in Batticaloa, according to early estimates. Police immediately rushed to the scenes of the blasts. About 50 people with assorted injuries had so far been admitted in Colombo's main hospital. There were no immediate claims of responsibility, Reuters reported.

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