Colombo (AP) - In a devastating series of attacks on Christian churches and hotels on Easter Sunday in Sri Lanka at least 207 people have been killed - including twelve foreigners. This was reported by the spokespersons of seven local hospitals of the German Press Agency.
In addition, more than 500 people were injured in the coordinated explosions.
There were at least eight detonations, including three in churches and three more in luxury hotels. Deputy Defense Minister Ruwan Wijewardene spoke of a "terrorist attack" and blamed extremists for the bloody deeds. The responsible persons are identified, he said. He imposed a nationwide curfew until early Monday morning.
Where the at least twelve killed foreigners came from was initially unclear. According to the Turkish news agency Anadolou to be among the dead two Turks.
The South Asian island nation with its tropical beaches is a popular tourist destination, also for Germans and other Europeans. There has been no major attack for years. In 2009, a civil war had come to an end there.
The churches were St. Anthony's Church in the capital Colombo, St. Sebastian's Church in the Negombo, some 30 kilometers from the capital, and Zions Church in Batticaloa, some 250 kilometers east of Colombo. Easter meals were being held in the churches. There were the most victims.
There were also explosions in the 5-star hotels Shangri-La, Cinnamon Grand and Kingsbury in Colombio. There should also have been injured foreigners. Later, a seventh explosion was reported in a small hotel in a suburb of Colombo, the capital with two dead. An eighth explosion occurred in the afternoon (local time) in a residential area in Dematagoda, another suburb of Colombo.
The explosions in the churches and luxury hotels took place almost at the same time. The first was reported from the church in Colombo, the remaining five all within just 30 minutes.
At first, no one committed to the attacks. President Maithripala Sirisena said the armed forces and police got to the bottom of the conspiracy. The commander in chief of the armed forces met several ministers for an emergency meeting.
Minister Harsha de Silva wrote on Twitter that there had been "terrible scenes" in a church in Colombo. This was littered with body parts. TV pictures showed rescuers carrying wounded people from a devastated church.
A 20-year-old tourist from Denmark, who has been staying with three friends in a hotel in Colombo, told Danish radio about the explosion in St. Anthony's Church: "There was chaos in the streets, with people and ambulances everywhere. Many of the locals showed down the street and said there had been an explosion and many were dead. "
Only about seven percent of Sri Lanka's population is Christian. The majority are Buddhists.
Every year, tens of thousands of Germans travel to ancient Ceylon. The island state of the size of Bavaria has a good 20 million inhabitants. In addition to tropical beaches, it offers several UNESCO World Heritage sites, six cultural monuments and two natural monuments.
The attack series met with horror worldwide. Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier condoled the president of Sri Lanka and wrote: "Stunned and horrified, I follow the terrible news about the cowardly terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka, where so many innocent people were killed and many more were injured." Chancellor Angela Merkel wrote in a condolence telegram: "It is shocking that people who gathered to celebrate Easter together were a conscious target of these insidious attacks." She added, "Religious hatred and intolerance that are so terrible today Have manifested manner, may not win. »
Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke of a "cruel and cynical crime". Israel's President Reuven Rivlin commented similarly. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan wrote: "This is an attack on all humanity." Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez tweeted: "The deaths of dozens of people celebrating Easter make us cry." British Prime Minister Theresa May said, "We need to stick together and make sure no one has to practice his faith in fear."
The Federal Foreign Office updated its travel advice shortly after the attacks. "Travelers are asked to stay away from the attacks, track local media, stay in close contact with tour operators and airlines, and follow orders from security forces," the ministry wrote.
"Should you be on Easter Island for Easter, please contact your relatives and friends," wrote the Federal Foreign Office's crisis response center on Twitter. The telephone and Internet connections in the country are overloaded. «If you want to reach your relatives on site, try a text message. Keep calm if you do not get an answer right away and try again, "the AA told worried relatives.
According to Federal Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, the German Embassy in Sri Lanka is in contact with the local authorities and is working hard to clarify whether Germans are also affected. The Foreign Office set up a crisis team. Concerned relatives can call 030-50000.
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.
Tweet of the minister
Sri Lanka is an island nation in the Indian Ocean. The official capital with the seat of government is called Sri Jayewardenepura, but de facto Colombo is the capital. The country is divided religiously.
The tropical island with almost 21 million inhabitants is mostly Buddhist. Around 12.6 percent of the population are Hindus, 9.7 percent Muslim and 7.4 percent Christian. Again and again, there are clashes between supporters of different religious communities.
Since the end of the civil war in May 2009, according to the Foreign Office in Sri Lanka until 21 April 2019 no more terrorist attacks were committed. But the military and police are "still visibly present".
In the civil war from 1983 to 2009, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) fought for an independent Tamil state in the north of the island. The Tamils are mostly Hindus. The LTTE carried out suicide bombings across the country and blew up trains. The army bombed the settlement area of the Tamils. It is estimated that around 100,000 people died during the civil war.
The LTTE has been classified by the European Union as a terrorist organization. The state army is also accused of war crimes.
Today, the LTTE is smashed. But the conflict continues to smolder. Many Tamils are still looking for relatives who came to the army's detention centers after 2009 and have since disappeared. Human rights organizations report on continued kidnapping, rape and torture of Tamils by security forces.