The detonation occurred according to police all within a short time in churches and luxury hotels. More than 400 people are said to have been injured. So far, there are no indications of affected Austrians.
After the series of explosions in hotels and churches on Easter Sunday, Sri Lanka’s death toll has risen to 138. More than 400 other people have been injured. This was reported by the police and hospitals. Among the victims are also nine foreigners, said a police representative of the news agency AFP.
According to a police representative, at least 45 people were killed in the attacks on three luxury hotels and a church in Colombo. At least 67 others died in a church in the Negombo town near Colombo. Another 25 were killed in a church in Batticaloa in the east of the country.
So far, there are no indications of affected Austrians. The situation was still confusing, it was said on Sunday from the Foreign Ministry on request of the APA. The responsible embassy in India’s capital New Delhi is in contact with the authorities in Sri Lanka. The German Embassy in Colombo urgently advised people to avoid public places in Sri Lanka.
Within half an hour, Sunday morning, explosions occurred in three churches in three different cities and in three luxury hotels in the capital, Colombo. Easter church services took place in the churches at that time.
“I condemn the cowardly assassinations today on our population,” wrote Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on Twitter. Ten days earlier, Sri Lanka’s police chief Pujuth Jayasundara had warned of possible suicide attacks on churches and on the Indian High Commission by the radical Islamic group NTJ. He relied on information from a “foreign intelligence service”.
Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces held an emergency meeting with several ministers, as Harsha de Silva, Minister of Economic Reform, wrote on Twitter. He experienced “terrible scenes” in a church in Colombo. This was littered with body parts. He called to keep calm and stay at home. Rescue operations were running.
The first explosions were reported in the churches of St. Anthony in Colombo and St. Sebastian in Negombo, outside the capital. At the time, the faithful were celebrating Easter Mass. The third church is located in Batticaloa in eastern Sri Lanka.
Bombs at St. Anthony’s Church in Colombo, St. Sebastian’s Church in Negombo and a church in Batticaloa exploded on Easter Sunday morning between 8:30 am and 9:00 am local time, the daily Colombo Telegraph reported on its website, according to Kathpress. At about the same time, bombs had exploded in the three five-star hotels Shangri-La, Cinnamon Grand, and Kingsbury in Colombo.
The church dedicated to St. Anthony of Padua is therefore considered the national sanctuary of the Catholics of the majority Buddhist Sri Lanka. According to statistical data from 2012, 70 percent of Sri Lanka’s 22 million inhabitants are Buddhists, just over twelve percent Hindus, just under ten percent Muslims and seven percent Christians.
“The attacks in #SriLanka, on people praying peacefully and worshiping and on hotel guests, are a terrible and barbarous act. They are to be condemned in the strongest terms,” said Federal President Alexander Van der Bellen on Sunday morning on Twitter.
“Our compassion and our thoughts are with the injured and the families and friends of the victims,” says Van der Bellen. Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl (FPÖ) also expressed her condolences to the victims and their relatives and was “deeply concerned by the brutal and perfidious acts of terror that have just happened on Easter Sunday in #SriLanka”. Chancellor Sebastian Kurz (ÖVP) retweeted in a first reaction Kneissls short message.
The South Asian island nation is a popular tourist destination, also for Europeans. The majority of the population are Buddhists.
Sri Lanka’s civil war ended in 2009 after 26 years. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) rebel group fought for an independent Tamil state in the north of the country. The army cracked down on the insurgents and eventually defeated them. The UN accuses both sides of war crimes.