Sri Lanka bombings: All the latest updates


A series of coordinated bombings on Easter Sunday has rockedSri Lanka.

More than 320 people were killed and at least 500 wounded in the deadliest attack in Sri Lanka since theend of the civil war10 years ago.

The blasts targeted three churches as well as four hotels – including the Shangri-La, Kingsbury and the Cinnamon Grand – in the capital Colombo.

Nearly all victims were Sri Lankan. Dozens of foreigners were also killed.

There were no claims of responsibility but cabinet spokesperson and health minister Rajitha Senaratne blamed the bombings on National Thowheeth Jama’ath, a little-known Muslim organisation.

Here are the latest updates:

Tuesday, April 23:

Attacks in ‘retaliation for Christchurch’: dep. defence minister

An initial probe into deadly suicide bomb attacks in Sri Lanka shows it was “retaliation for Christchurch,” the country’s deputy defence minister said.

“The preliminary investigations have revealed that what happened in Sri Lanka was in retaliation for the attack against Muslims in Christchurch,” state minister of defence Ruwan Wijewardene told parliament.

Fifty people were killed in shooting attacks on two mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch on March 15.

Death toll climbs to 321: dep. defence minister

The death toll of the Easter Sunday bombings has climbed further to 321, state defence minister Ruwan Wijewardene announced.

Speaking in parliament in Colombo, Wijewardene said the toll included 38 foreigners.

About 375 people are still being treated in hospital.

Mass burial for bombings victims

The first mass burial for the victims of Easter Sunday bombings took place in Colombo.

Mourners and relatives of the victims brought flowers to the memorial service and prayed with the clergy as coffins were being carried in and out of the church.

A woman mourns next to two coffins during a mass burial at a cemetery near St. Sebastian Church in Negombo [Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters]

Death toll reaches 310

The death toll from Sri Lanka’s Easter Sunday bombings has now reached 310 with several people succumbing to their injuries, according to a police spokesperson.

About 500 people were wounded in the blasts, Ruwan Gunasekera said in a statement, adding that 40 people were now under arrest in connection with the attacks.

Tuesday has been declared a national day of mourning in Sri Lanka.

State of emergency enforced

Sri Lanka has been placed under a state of emergency as authorities aimed to maintain security and essential services during investigations into the bombings.

President Maithripala Sirisena made the declaration which gives security forces special powers, including the right to search and arrest individuals.

The country is also observing April 23 as a national day of mourning, a decision taken during a meeting of the National Security Council chaired by President Sirisena.

‘We never expected this’

A man whose Australian wife and only child died in a bomb blast in a Sri Lanka church on Sunday said he walked out ahead of his family moments before the explosion.

Sudesh Kolonne saw his 10-year-old daughter Alexendria dead on the floor of St Sebastian Catholic Church. Her mother Manik Suriaaratchi was also killed.

“I don’t know what to do,” Kolonne told Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

“We used to go to that church every Sunday. We never expected this.”

Monday, April 22:

Sri Lanka military granted special powers

Sri Lanka’s President Maithripala Sirisena declared a nationwide emergency from midnight onward on Monday, giving the military a wider berth to detain and arrest suspects – powers that were used during the civil war, but withdrawn when it ended.

The president’s media unit said the measure would be confined to dealing with “terrorism” and would not impinge on freedom of expression.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, meanwhile, said he feared Sunday’s massacre could unleash instability, and he vowed to “vest all necessary powers with the defence forces” to act against those responsible.

Thirty-one foreign nationals killed

The bodies of 31 foreign nationals killed on Sunday have been identified, Sri Lanka’s foreign ministrysaidin a statement, with 14 others unaccounted for and feared dead.

Among those killed were eight Indian nationals, eight United Kingdom nationals, two Saudi Arabian nationals and two Chinese nationals.

The ministry also said 17 foreign nationals wounded in the attacks were receiving treatment at the National Hospital of Sri Lanka in Colombo and a separate private hospital in the capital.

Nearly 300 people were killed in Sunday’s attacks [Dinuka Liyanawatte/Reuters]

Spanish foreign ministry confirms two nationals killed

Spain’s foreign ministry said two Spanish nationals were killed in the Sri Lanka bombings.

The ministry said in a statement that a man and a woman had died, without providing further details.

The Spanish embassy in India is trying to obtain their death certificates, the ministry’s statement said.

Four United States nationals killed: State Department

At least four US nationals were killed in the Sri Lanka attacks, AFP news agency reported, citing an unnamed official from the US State Department.

Several other US citizens were also seriously injured in the assault on churches and luxury hotels, the official said.

UN: ‘Evil must be held accountable’

The “evil” perpetrators of the attacks must be held accountable for their actions, a spokesperson for the current president of the United Nations General Assembly, Maria Fernanda Espinosa, said.

Espinosa’s spokesperson called the attacks “senseless acts of violence” and also said “there is no justification for terrorism and… the world must unite to tackle it once for all”.

Sri Lanka’s UN ambassador urges social media caution

Amrith Rohan Perera, Sri Lanka’s ambassador to the United Nations, urged Sri Lankans overseas to “to use social media responsibly” in the wake of the Easter Sunday attacks.

Perera’s statement on Monday came after his government shut down most social sites within the island nation, a move the ambassador said would help “prevent speculative and mischievous attempts to spread rumors until investigations are concluded”.

Trump calls Sri Lankan PM

US President Donald Trump called Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe to express his condolences.

Trump pledged the United States’ support in bringing the perpetrators of the attacks to justice, White House Deputy Press Secretary Hogan Gidley said.

Three churches were targeted in Sunday’s attacks [File: AP]

Opposition MP denounces intelligence-sharing accusations

Namal Rajapaksa, an opposition member of the Sri Lankan parliament for the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna party, told Al Jazeera the aftermath of the attacks must not become a “political game”.

“We are shocked to hear that the prime minister is claiming that he wasn’t aware of the security threat and of course trying to play the initial blame game and put the blame on to the president or the armed forces, this is not acceptable, the government and the prime minister are part of one government, they are part of one coalition,” Rajapaksa said.

“We want to keep the political differences aside, but we want the government to work together, the president and the prime minister, and take action because it is clearly a lack of security that has taken place here,” he added.

Interpol sends team to Sri Lanka

International criminal police organisation Interpol said it was deploying a team of investigators, including experts in disaster-victim identification, to Sri Lanka in order to assist local authorities.

The Incident Response Team, sent at the request of local authorities, also includes specialists with expertise in “crime scene examination, explosives, [and] counter-terrorism”, Interpolsaidin a statement.

“The families and friends of the victims of these bombings, as with every terrorist attack, require and deserve the full support of the global law enforcement community,” Jurgen Stock, Interpol’s secretary general, said.

Five Indian political party workers killed

At least five workers from an Indian political party on a break after working on India’s general election were among those killed in Sri Lanka, a government official told Reuters news agency.

Another two from a seven-member group from the Janata Dal (Secular) party were missing, the official said.

The group was on an outing after voting took place on Thursday in India’s general election in the southern state of Karnataka and were staying at the Shangri-La hotel in Colombo.

Pompeo vows fight on ‘Islamic radical terrorism’

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the United States will keep fighting “radical Islamic terror” in the wake of the Sri Lanka attacks.

“Radical Islamic terror remains a threat,” Pompeo told reporters. “This is America’s fight, too.”

The US State Department has warned of further attacks in Sri Lanka in a revised travel advisory, urging increased caution and adding, “Terrorist groups continue plotting possible attacks in Sri Lanka.”

Sri Lankan police clear an area in Colombo, Sri Lanka [Dinuka Liyanawatte/Reuters]

Pope condemns ‘inhuman acts’

Pope Francis called for universal condemnation of what he said were “terrorist acts, inhuman acts” that could never be justified.

It was the second straight day that the Roman Catholic pope condemned the attacks, which hit many Christians on the most important Christian feast day.

Google searches for Notre Dame outnumbered Sri Lanka attacks 7:1

The fire that ravaged France’s iconic Notre Dame Cathedral receivedseven times more searcheson Google than the bombings that rocked Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday and killed nearly 300 people.

According to data retrieved from Google Trends, search results for both disasters have since plateaued, but comparisons between both stories reveal that worldwide search interest was at least seven times greater for the keywords “Notre Dame” over “Sri Lanka” during this past week.

Blast near church while Sri Lanka bomb squad was trying to defuse device – witness

An explosion went off in a van near St Anthony’s church in Colombo, where scores were killed on Monday when bomb squad officials were trying to defuse an explosive, a witness told Reuters news agency.

“The van exploded when the bomb defusing unit tried to defuse the bomb,” the witness said. Security forces spokesmen were not immediately available for comment.

No injuries have been reported.

Bomb detonators found at Colombo bus station: police

Police said they had found 87 bomb detonators at a Colombo bus station.

A statement said police found the detonators at the Bastian Mawatha Private bus stand, 12 of them scattered on the ground and another 75 in a garbage dump nearby.

Sri Lanka to seek help tracking international links to attacks

President Maithripala Sirisena will ask for foreign assistance to track international links to the Easter Sunday bombings, his office said.

“The intelligence reports (indicate) that foreign terrorist organisations are behind the local terrorists. Therefore, the president is to seek the assistance of the foreign countries,” it said in a statement.

April 23 declared day of national mourning

Sri Lanka’s government has declared Tuesday, April 23 a day of national mourning, the President’s Media Division announced.

Sri Lanka government orders new curfew

Authorities have ordered a new curfew in Colombo on Monday from 8pm to 4am on Tuesday, the Government Information Department announced.

The department said tensions remained high in the capital following Sunday’s bombings.

Health minister: National Thawheeth Jama’ath involved in bombings

Cabinet spokesperson and health minister Rajitha Senaratne blamed the bombings on National Thowheeth Jama’ath, a little-known Muslim organisation, without elaborating on evidence.

Speaking at Temple Trees, the official residence of the prime minister, Senaratne said that all the suicide bombers were Sri Lankan nationals, and that police officials were “aware of information” regarding possible attacks during Easter.

“Intelligence reports said that during this Easter period, these types of attacks can take place, and they also mentioned that Christian places of worship and places of tourist interest may be targeted,” Senaratne said.

Senaratne said the attacks were carried out with the help of an international network.

“We do not believe these attacks were carried out by a group of people who were confined to this country,” Senaratne said. “There was an international network without which these attacks could not have succeeded.”

Retired Supreme Court judge to head investigation

President Maithripala Sirisena has appointed a three-member committee headed by a retired Supreme Court judge to investigate the Easter Sunday bombings.

Judge Vijith Malalgoda will chair the committee, assisted by former Inspector General of Police N K Illangakoon, and P Jayamanna, a retired senior public servant.

‘Seven suicide bombers’ carried out church, hotel attacks

A Sri Lankan government forensic analyst told AP news agency that six of the bombings of churches and hotels on Sunday were carried out by seven suicide bombers.

Death toll rises to 290: police

The death toll from the Easter Sunday explosions in Sri Lanka has risen to 290 with almost 500 people wounded, a police spokesperson said on Monday.

The police added that the investigation into the bombings will examine reports that the intelligence community failed to detect or warn of possible suicide attacks before the violence.

Authorities also lifted a curfew that was in place overnight following the bombings. The streets in the capital, Colombo, were largely deserted on Monday morning, with most shops closed and a heavy deployment of soldiers and police.

More arrests made by the police

Police say they have now arrested at least 24 people in connection with Sunday’s bombings.

Police spokesperson Ruwan Gunasekara said that the individuals arrested, all locals, were being questioned by the Criminal Investigation Department.

Improvised bomb defused near Colombo airport: police

An improvised pipe bomb discovered close to Colombo’s main airport has been successfully defused, according to police.

The “homemade” pipe bomb was found late on Sunday on a road leading towards the main terminal, which remains open with heavy security after deadly attacks on churches and hotels.

Sunday, April 21:

‘No one can dry our tears today’

Sinan M Salahuddin’s uncle, 43-year-old Mohamed Rishard, was killed when an explosion hit the Shangri-La Hotel in Colombo. “He was my mentor, my guardian. It is a huge loss for us,” he told Al Jazeera.

Rishard, the owner of the automobile dealership Exotic Cars, left behind his wife, three teenage daughters and an 11-year-old son. “He started his business from scratch, he was a self-made man and always wanted to help others in need. He was a mentor to many,” said 29-year-old Salahuddin.

“His wife is devastated … No one can dry our tears today,” he said.

Read morehere

Police say 13 suspects arrested

Ruwan Gunasekara, a police spokesperson, said 13 suspects have been arrested in connection with the bombings in Sri Lanka

In a statement, Gunasekara said police have obtained a vehicle they suspect was used to transport the suspects into Colombo. Police also found a safe house used by the attackers, the statement added.

Gov’t ‘alerted to possible attacks before bombings’

Sri Lankan Prime MinisterRanil Wickremesinghehas acknowledged that “information was there” about possible attacks before bomb blasts ripped through churches and hotels in Colombo and two other towns.

“While this goes on we must also look into why adequate precautions were not taken,” he said.

Eight people have so far been arrested in connection with the deadly blasts, Wickremesinghe said.

“So far the names that have come up are local,” he said, adding that investigators would look into whether the attackers had any “overseas links”.

Muslim groups condemn attacks

Two Muslim groups in Sri Lanka condemned the attacks on churches and hotels in the country on Easter Sunday that killed more than 200 people.

The Muslim Council of Sri Lanka said it mourns the loss of innocent people in the blasts by violent elements who seek to divide religious and ethnic groups.

People light candles for the victims of Sri Lanka’s serial bomb blasts in Karachi, Pakistan [Akhtar Soomro/Reuters]

The All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama, a body of Muslim scholars, said targeting Christian places of worship was unacceptable.

Indians, Turks, Britons among victims

The nationalities of 11 foreigners killed in the Easter Sunday blasts have been verified, Sri Lanka’s foreign ministry said.

They include three Indians, one Portuguese national, two Turkish nationals, three British nationals and two holding US and British nationalities.

Nine foreigners were reported missing, the statement added.

‘Heart-wrenching scenes’

Family members of victims were given a chance to identify the bodies of their loved ones, as body bags were lined up outside the St Anthony’s Shrine in Colombo late on Sunday evening.

“There were absolutely heart-wrenching scenes,” said Al Jazeera’s Minelle Fernandez, reporting from the church. “Hundreds of people were wailing at the top of their voices as families who were looking for missing loved ones were allowed to look at the fatalities from this church.”

“Many of the people still do not where their loved ones are,” she added.

UK says citizens caught in bombings

The British high commissioner to Sri Lanka said the UK government understands that “some British citizens were caught in the blasts” but it is too soon to say how many might have been affected.

James Dauris urged Britons to get in touch with family members to let them know they are safe.

Two Turkish engineers killed in blasts

Two Turkish citizens were among those killed in bomb blasts at three churches and four hotels in Sri Lanka, according to Turkey’s state media service, the Anadolu Agency.

The Turks were engineers working on a project in Sri Lanka, Anadolu reported.

Chinese national killed in attacks

One Chinese national was killed during the attacks on Sri Lankan churches and hotels on Sunday, Chinese state newspaper People’s Daily said.

Earlier, the state news agency Xinhua said four Chinese nationals were injured, but were in a stable condition in hospital.

Seven suspects arrested

The defence minister says seven suspects linked to the blasts have been arrested as security was stepped up at Sri Lanka’s international airport.

PM calls emergency meeting

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has convened Sri Lanka’s top military officials at an emergency meeting of the National Security Council following the blasts. He has also called for an emergency convening of the nation’s parliament on Monday.

Death toll rises to 185 people

Dr Anil Jasinghe, the health ministry’s director-general of health services, told Al Jazeera that 185 people have died in the attacks that targeted different parts of the country. The government has yet to confirm the new death toll.

‘Temporary’ social media ban

Sri Lanka’s government said on Sunday it would impose a “temporary” social media ban in the wake of the blasts.

Social media networks and messaging apps, including Facebook and WhatsApp, have been blocked.

“The government has decided to block all social media platforms in order to prevent incorrect and wrong information being spread. This is only a temporary measure” Udaya R Seneviratne, secretary to the president, said in a statement.

Nationwide curfew imposed

Sri Lanka’s government imposed a nationwide curfew on Sunday that police said would go into effect immediately and would last “until further notice”, in the wake of coordinated attacks.

Sri Lanka’s defence ministry initially said the curfew would be imposed overnight, but the police subsequently said it would go into effect straight away.

Pope condemns Easter attacks

Pope Francis on Sunday condemned attacks that killed at least 156 people in three churches and four hotels in Sri Lanka as “such cruel violence” and said he was close to the Christian community, hit while celebrating Easter.

The blasts, which hospital and police officials said wounded more than 400 people.

Eighth blast suicide bomb: Police

The eighth blast in a string of explosions that hit Sri Lanka on Sunday was carried out by a suicide bomber and killed three police officers, a police source told AFP news agency.

The source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the suicide bomber detonated his explosives when police entered a house in a northern suburb of the capital Colombo to carry out a search.

The upper floor of the house collapsed in the blast, killing the police officers. The blast was the latest in a string targeting mostly hotels and churches that have killed at least 156 people in a single day.

Pictures of destruction

Sri Lanka, a popular tourist destination, is reeling from its worst attacks in a decade.

At least 75 people were killed in attacks on two churches – St Sebastian’s gothic-style Catholic church north of Colombo and an evangelical church in Batticaloa in Eastern Province, with pictures showing bodies on the ground, blood on the pews and a destroyed roof.

PM condemns bombings

Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has condemned the attacks, saying they are “an attempt to make the country and its economy unstable”.

“On behalf of the Government, I would like to offer my deepest sympathies to the injured persons and the relations of the deceased consequent to the recent attacks occurred this morning,” his statement said.

“I condemn these attacks which targeted religious places and some hotels. We all should join hands to protect law and order. I have already instructed the Secretary / Defence, Tri Forces Commanders and the Inspector General of Police to take stringent action to ensure law and order in the country,” Wickremesinghe’s statement added.

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