In at least six attacks on three churches and several hotels in Sri Lanka, at least 160 people died on Sunday morning and 400 people were injured. A few hours later, another two potentially fatal attacks followed in the country with reportedly five deaths. Among the victims are nine to thirty foreigners, including probably Dutch.
- Certainly 160 dead and 400 injured reported
- 9 to 30 foreign victims, possibly Dutch
- Explosions in three churches in Kochchikade, Negombo and Batticaloa
- Also explosions in the three hotels Shangri La, Cinnamon Grand and Kingsbury in Colombo
- Hours later two more attacks, in Dematagoda and Dehiwela
- Defense Minister Sri Lanka speaks of "terror"
- Attempts not yet claimed
- Travel advice to Sri Lanka tightened
- Follow our live blog
A spokesman for the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs was still unable to say at 1.39 pm if there were Dutch among the victims. The ministry says it will investigate this and "closely follow" the situation in Sri Lanka. Travel agencies Thomas Cook and TUI report that at least no Dutch people are involved in the attacks that booked a trip through them.
The attacks have not yet been claimed, but the Sri Lankan authorities speak of a "terrorist act" for which "extremist groups" would be responsible. Seven people were arrested in connection with the attacks, reports the Sri Lankan minister of defense.
View the locations of the explosions below:
First reports of explosions around 10 a.m.
The first reports about the explosions arrived around 10 a.m. local time (6.30 a.m. Dutch time).
The attacks took place in a church in the Katuwapitiya district in Negombo, north of Colombo, among other places. According to local police, fifty people were killed there alone, reports Reuters news agency . Explosives also went off in churches in Kochchikade, on the west coast, and Batticaloa, on the east coast. Because of Easter it was busy in the churches.
1Explosion in Sri Lankan church with dashcam captured
Explosives also went off in three hotels in the center of Colombo. The attacks have been reported in the hotels Shangri-La, Kingsbury and Cinnamon Grand. Many foreign tourists would stay in those hotels.
In the Cinnamon Grand, an explosive fire went off in the restaurant on the ground floor, the hotel reports via Twitter. It is not yet known where the explosions took place in the other hotels.
1Images show havoc after attacks in Sri Lanka
The wounded were taken to different hospitals in the capital, Colombo. The authorities have called for donating blood.
"Two new attacks hit Sri Lanka"
A few hours after the first six attacks, a seventh explosion took place in Dehiwela, near Colombo, according to the authorities. This attack would have killed at least two people, according to the Sri Lankan channel Newsfirst . The explosion took place in a hotel near the national zoo. It was closed immediately after the explosion.
Not long after, an eighth explosion followed in the country, namely in the suburb of Dematagoda, Colombo, reports the local police. Three agents were probably killed by a suicide attack in a residential complex.
Warnings for suicide attacks on important churches
The police allegedly warned nationwide ten days ago of attacks on important churches.
Although the attacks - as previously reported - have not yet been claimed, the Sri Lankan government assumes that the attacks were coordinated. The National Thowheeth Jama'ath (NTJ) is said to have planned the attacks. NTJ is a group of radical Muslims who were held responsible for the destruction of Buddhist images last year.
The church in Kochchikade in Colombo where one of the explosions took place. (Photo: ANP)
Sri Lankan government takes security measures
Following the series of attacks, the Sri Lankan government has set a curfew on Sunday from 6 p.m. to 6 p.m. local time. It is 3.5 hours later than in the Netherlands.
All public schools close for two days. The authorities have also blocked the most important social media, with which they want to prevent unfounded rumors from leading their own lives.
Travel advice to Sri Lanka tightened
The Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs tightened the travel advice to Sri Lanka on Sunday morning due to "security risks".
The ministry advises people who are in Sri Lanka to avoid the surroundings of the attacks and to follow the instructions of the local authorities. Tourists must also take into account extra security measures around the airport.
The ministry has opened an emergency number for questions about the attacks. On the Red Cross Ikbenveilig.nl website, Dutch people can report themselves safely for their loved ones.
A soldier is standing in front of the affected Shangri-La Hotel. (Photo: ANP)
Authorities are shocked by attacks
The Prime Minister of Sri Lanka Ranil Wickremasinghe has condemned the "cowardly attacks" on the churches and hotels in his country.
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.Avatar
Also internationally, heads of state, government leaders and Pope Francis have unanimously shocked the news about the attacks on Sri Lanka. Among others, British Prime Minister Theresa May, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and American President Donald Trump said they would sympathize.
Prime Minister Mark Rutte on Twitter: "Terrible messages from Sri Lanka about bloody attacks on hotels and churches on this Easter Sunday. Thoughts are with the victims and their relatives."
During his Easter Easter address, Pope Francis spoke of "cruel violence" and stated that he felt connected to the victims who were "mourned and hurted" at Easter.
Pope Francis expresses his condolences to the victims of the attacks during his Easter address in Vatican City (Photo: ANP).
Sri Lanka has a Christian minority
Easter is an important holiday in Christianity. Sri Lanka has a Christian minority, mainly from Roman Catholics. The number of Catholics is estimated at 1.2 million of the total population of around 21 million inhabitants.
The majority of the inhabitants of Sri Lanka are Buddhist, around 70 percent. About 12 percent are Hindu and 10 percent Muslim.
Last year there were about 86 reports of discrimination, threats and violence against Christians, according to the National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka (NCEASL), which represents more than two hundred churches in the country.
The attacks follow ten years after the end of many years of civil war in Sri Lanka. The Tamil ethnic minority took up arms in 1983 in their quest for an independent state on the island in the Indian Ocean. A bloody civil war ensued in which tens of thousands of people died. The war lasted until 2009.
An explosion reported on the premises of the St. Anthony's Church in Kochchikade Colombo #lkaAvatar