Colombo (AP) - In a series of attacks on three churches and three hotels, at least 185 people have died on Easter Sunday in Sri Lanka, including at least 11 foreigners.
In addition, more than 450 people were injured, according to information from local hospitals. Where the foreigners came from was initially unclear.
Within half an hour, Sunday morning (local time), explosions occurred in three churches in three different cities and in three luxury hotels in the capital, Colombo. Easter church services took place in the churches at that time.
President Maithripala Sirisena spoke of "attacks". The armed forces and the police would investigate the "conspiracy".
Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces held an emergency meeting with several ministers, as Harsha de Silva, Minister of Economic Reform, wrote on Twitter. He experienced "terrible scenes" in a church in Colombo. This was littered with body parts. He called to keep calm and stay at home. Rescue operations were running.
The German Embassy in Colombo strongly advised to avoid public places in Sri Lanka. The federal government reacted deeply affected. Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert wrote on Twitter: "We mourn for her and pray for the wounded and the families. Terrorism, religious hatred and intolerance must not win. »
The South Asian island nation is a popular tourist destination, also for Europeans. Only about seven percent of the population are Christians. The majority are Buddhists.
Sri Lanka's civil war ended in 2009 after 26 years. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) rebel group fought for an independent Tamil state in the north of the country. The army cracked down on the insurgents and eventually defeated them. The UN accuses both sides of war crimes.
Federal Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has expressed his consternation over the series of attacks on churches and hotels with more than 130 dead in Sri Lanka and condemned them in the strongest terms. "The news from Sri Lanka is stunned. We are in thoughts with the relatives of the victims and hope with the injured, "he wrote on Sunday on Twitter. To experience so much hate at Easter, it hurts. "Easter is a feast of love that teaches us: hatred on our part can never be the solution."
The SPD politician further explained: "This vile act was apparently aimed specifically at people who devoted themselves to prayer and reflection in the churches on Easter Sunday, as well as against travelers. Nothing can justify the targeted murder of innocent people. »
The German embassy in Sri Lanka is in contact with the local authorities and is working hard to clarify whether Germans are affected as well. "Germans staying in Sri Lanka should stay away from the places of attack and follow the instructions of the authorities," Maas advised. The Foreign Office set up a crisis team. Concerned relatives can call 030-50000.
Maas assured that Germany was supporting Sri Lanka as a partner.
Tweet of the minister
After the series of attacks on churches and hotels in Sri Lanka with at least 185 deaths, the Federal Foreign Office updated its travel advisories for the South Asian island state. "Travelers are asked to avoid the places of attack, to follow the local media, to keep in close contact with tour operators and airlines, and to follow instructions from security forces," wrote the ministry in Berlin on Sunday. The situation was confusing. "With extensive security measures such as barriers, but also restrictions on air traffic and increased controls before entering the airport building and the departure is expected." Military and police were visibly present.