More than 130 people have been killed and hundreds more injured in a series of explosions at churches and hotels in Sri Lanka, police and hospital sources say.
At least seven explosions were reported. Three churches in Negombo, Batticaloa and Colombo’s Kochchikade district were targeted during Easter services. According to authorities, 137 are reported dead folowing the blasts.
The Shangri-La, Kingsbury, Cinnamon Grand and a fourth hotel, all in Colombo, were also hit.
Easter Sunday is one of the major feasts in the Christian calendar.
No group has yet said it was responsible.
Theravada Buddhism is Sri Lanka’s biggest religion, making up about 70.2% of the population, according to the most recent census.
It is the religion of Sri Lanka’s Sinhalese majority. It is given primary place in the country’s laws and is singled out in the constitution.
Hindus and Muslims make up 12.6% and 9.7% of the population respectively.
Sri Lanka is also home to about 1.5 million Christians, according to the 2012 census, the vast majority of them Roman Catholic.
St Sebastian’s church in Negombo was severely damaged. Images on social media showed its inside, with a shattered ceiling and blood on the pews. At least 67 people are reported to have died there.
There were heavy casualties too at the site of the first blast in St Anthony’s, a hugely popular shrine in Kochchikade, a district of Colombo.
Hospital sources in Batticaloa said at least 27 people had died there.
A hotel official at the Cinnamon Grand, near the prime minister’s official residence, told AFP the explosion there had ripped through a restaurant, killing at least one person.
A seventh explosion was later reported at a hotel near the zoo in Dehiwala, southern Colombo, with police sources reporting two deaths.
News is coming in of a possible eighth explosion, in the Colombo district of Dematagoda, but this has not yet been confirmed.
Sri Lanka’s President Maithripala Sirisena has issued a statement calling for people to remain calm and support the authorities in their investigations.
PM Ranil Wickremesinghe is chairing an emergency meeting. He said: “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.”
In the years since the end of Sri Lanka’s civil war in 2009, there has been some sporadic violence, with members of the majority Buddhist Sinhala community attacking mosques and Muslim-owned properties. That led to a state of emergency being declared in March 2018.
The civil war ended with the defeat of the Tamil Tigers, who had fought for 26 years for an independent homeland for the minority ethnic Tamils. The war is thought to have killed between 70,000 and 80,000 people.