Eight blasts had rocked churches and hotels in and just outside of Sri Lanka’s capital on Easter Sunday, officials said, the worst violence to hit the South Asian country since its civil war ended a decade ago.
The defence minister, Ruwan Wijewardene, says seven people have been arrested in connection with the attacks. He says at least 190 people have been killed, including 27 foreigners.
Meanwhile, the president’s office has confirmed that Facebook, Instagram and other social media sites have been temporarily blocked in Sri Lanka, according to a state news portal, underlining that the blackout will continue as long as necessary for security forces to conclude their investigations into the attacks.
It said the decision was prompted by the spread of misinformation on those sites.
Since the end of the country’s 26-year civil war, in which the Tamil Tigers, a rebel insurgency from the ethnic Tamil minority, sought independence from ethnic Sinhala Buddhist majority Sri Lanka, there has been sporadic ethnic and religious violence.
But the scale of Sunday’s bloodshed recalled the worst days of the war, when Tigers and other rebels set off explosions at Sri Lanka’s Central Bank in downtown Colombo, at a busy shopping mall, an important Buddhist temple and tourist hotels.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for Sunday’s blasts.
Wickremesinghe said his government would “vest all necessary powers with the defense forces” to take action against those responsible for the attacks, “regardless of their stature.”
Two of the blasts were suspected to have been carried out by suicide bombers, a senior official told The Associated Press, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak with reporters. Worshippers and hotel guests were among the dead, the official said.
A National Hospital spokesman, Dr. Samindi Samarakoon, told The Associated Press that they received 47 dead there, including nine foreigners, and were treating more than 200 wounded.
Countries around the world condemned the attacks, and Pope Francis added an appeal at the end of his traditional Easter Sunday blessing to address the massacre.