International community condemns deadly Easter Sunday blasts in Sri Lanka
Armed policemen patrol the area after an explosion hit at St Anthony's Church in Kochchikade in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Apr. 21, 2019. EPA-EFE/M.A. PUSHPA KUMARA
A general view showing damages after an explosion hit at St Anthony's Church in Kochchikade in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Apr. 21, 2019. EPA-EFE/M.A. PUSHPA KUMARA
One of the blast victim is brought to a hospital in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Apr. 21, 2019. EPA-EFE/M.A. PUSHPA KUMARA
Locals and police gather at the Secon church Batticalova central road in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Apr. 21, 2019. EPA-EFE/M.A. PUSHPA KUMARA
Newsdesk, Apr 21 (efe-epa).- Political and religious leaders from different parts of the world on Sunday condemned the series of attacks on churches and luxury hotels in Sri Lanka, which have killed at least 185 people and injured more than 400 amid Easter Sunday celebrations in the country.
The explosions took place around 8.45 am, and were reported from at least three luxury hotels and three churches.
Later in the day, a fresh explosion was reported from a small hotel near a zoo in Colombo, which had killed another two people.
The explosion took place just after noon at a guest house situated just 100 meters away from the Dehiwala zoo, around 10 kilometers south of the center of Colombo, Sri Lanka police spokesperson Ruwan Gunasekara told journalists.
After the first set of blasts, the prime ministers of the United Kingdom and Spain and the president of the European Commission issued statements condemning the attacks and expressed sympathy with the victims.
"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," British Prime Minister Theresa May said in a tweet.
“We must stand together to make sure that no one should ever have to practice their faith in fear," she added.
"I most vehemently condemn the terrible attacks in Sri Lanka. It makes us weep to think of the dozens of victims who were celebrating Easter. The terror and barbarity will never crush us. My support and love to all the victims and their families," Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez tweeted.
Spain's embassy to India, which manages diplomatic affairs in Sri Lanka, warned Spanish citizens in the country to be cautious after the attacks.
The president of the European Council said Europe stood ready to support Sri Lanka at this juncture.
"It was with horror and sadness that I heard of the bombings in Sri Lanka costing the lives of so many people. I offer my heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims who had gathered to worship peacefully or come to visit this beautiful country," he tweeted.
The Catholic Churches in the Holy Land on Sunday too expressed shock and dismay over the attacks in a statement.
"How difficult, angry, and sad these news are, especially as these attacks came while Christians celebrate Easter!" Wadie Abunassar, advisor to Church leaders in the Holy Land, said in a statement from Jerusalem.
"We pray for the souls of the victims and ask for speedy recovery of the injured, and ask God to inspire the terrorists to repent of their killing and intimidation," he added.
Sri Lanka police spokesperson Ruwan Gunasekara confirmed to EFE that at least 185 people had died, while hospital sources said that the number of injured stood at 469.
"I am shocked and saddened by the situation that has occurred. Investigations have been launched to look into what conspiracy is behind this heinous act," President Maithripala Sirisena said in a message to the nation after the attacks.
"Please remain calm and do not be fooled by rumors," the president added.
“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,” Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe had tweeted.
Harsha de Silva, the minister of economic reforms and public distribution, had tweeted about the attack right after it took place and said that the country’s National Security Council would be holding an emergency meeting.
He had later tweeted to say that Wickremesinghe had met with ministers and senior military personnel.
“All measures taken to maintain peace. Security tightened. Please stay calm. Please act responsibly. Please NO politics. We must all act together as SriLanka citizens. My condolences to all families who lost loved ones,” he had tweeted.
Silva, along with the defense secretary, had visited a few of the attack sites and described the carnage caused by the attacks.
"Horrible scenes. I saw many body parts strewn all over. Emergency crews are at all locations in full force. (...) We took multiple casualties to hospital. Hopefully saved many lives," the minister said.
Images circulated in local media show the magnitude of the explosion in at least one of the churches, where the ceiling had been partially destroyed, and corpses were strewn around among the rubble, while people tried to look for survivors.
Christians in Sri Lanka had been celebrating the Easter Sunday, an important festival marking the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the culmination of week-long festivities.
There have been a number of attacks against religious minorities on the island in the past.
In 2018, the government had to declare a state of emergency after violent clashes had erupted between Muslims and the majority Sinhalese Buddhists, leading to two deaths and dozens of arrests.
However, attacks of this scale have not taken place in the country since the civil war between Tamil rebels and the government ended in 2009 - after a 26-year long conflict - with more than 40,000 civilian deaths according to data provided by the United Nations.
Christians form around 7 percent of the Sri Lankan population, with the Buddhists accounting for around 70 percent, followed by around 15 percent Hindus and 11 percent Muslims.