May 24, 2019
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At least 185 killed in Sri Lanka attack, fresh blast kills 2 more

Colombo, Apr 21 (efe-epa).- The death toll in a series of deadly blasts in three luxury hotels and three churches in Sri Lanka on Sunday has climbed to 185, while more than 400 people have been injured, the police said.

At least two people were killed in another explosion in the afternoon, which took place at a small hotel near a zoo in Colombo, taking the death toll to 187.

Sri Lanka police spokesperson Ruwan Gunasekara confirmed to EFE that at least 185 people had died in the morning blasts, which took place around 8.45 am,, while hospital sources said that the number of injured stood at 469.

Gunasekara later told journalists that the latest 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.

"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.

cd-mt/ia/nb

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