Colombo (dpa) - In a devastating series of attacks on Christian churches and hotels on Easter Sunday in Sri Lanka at least 191 people were 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, with just under 21 million inhabitants, is mostly Buddhist. Around 7.4 percent of the population are Christians. In addition, 12.6 percent of the population are Hindus, 9.7 percent are Muslims.
- St. Anthony's Church in Colombo is located near the port in the northwest of the capital. The Roman Catholic Church is dedicated to St. Anthony of Padua and belongs to the Archdiocese of Colombo, which has about 700,000 Catholics. The origins of the church go back to the Dutch colonial era, when the Catholic faith was suppressed. The present church was consecrated in 1834. The church is a well-known pilgrimage site.
- The St. Sebastian Church in Negombo is located about 35 kilometers north of the capital. The Roman Catholic Church is dedicated to the patron of the city of Negombo. The foundation stone for the church was laid in 1936, the building completed about ten years later. Negombo has about 140,000 inhabitants and is mostly Catholic.
- The Zionskirche in Batticaloa is located about 280 kilometers east of the capital Colombo. The evangelical free church in the 90,000-inhabitant city was founded in 1974.
All three five-star hotels are located within a radius of about two kilometers within the business and shopping district of the capital, Colombo, near the beach promenade.
- Shangri-La has over 500 rooms and suites and 41 apartments.
- The Cinnamon Grand Hotel also has over 500 rooms and suites.
- Kingsbury Hotel has 229 rooms and suites.