Colombo (AP) - After the devastating series of attacks on Christian churches and hotels with nearly 300 dead on Easter Sunday in Sri Lanka, the motives for the deeds are still unclear. Although there were 24 arrests according to the police, nobody initially admitted to the attacks.
According to police, at least 290 people were killed in the explosions on Monday, including at least 35 foreigners from several countries. Among the approximately 450 injured who were still treated in hospitals, 19 were foreigners. According to Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, the German embassy in Sri Lanka is in contact with the local authorities and is trying to clarify whether Germans are also affected.
In total there were at least eight detonations on Sunday, including three in churches and three more in luxury hotels. The explosions in the churches and hotels happened almost at the same time. Easter church services were taking place in the churches. There were the most victims. On Sunday evening, near the largest airport on the island, about 30 kilometers from Colombo, an explosive device was found and defused, as a spokesman for the Air Force announced.
As Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said in a televised speech, those arrested all came from Sri Lanka. But he wanted to ask for help abroad to find out if the attackers had ties to international terrorism. "We will not allow terrorism in Sri Lanka to raise its head. All action is taken to eradicate terrorism, "said Wickremesinghe.
Sri Lanka's secret service also found indications of a possible attack. It had to be examined why no such action had been taken, said Mr Wickremesinghe.
Deputy Defense Minister Ruwan Wijewardene blamed extremists for the «terrorist attack». He announced a nationwide curfew until early Monday morning. In addition, according to his statements, the government temporarily blocked access to social media. Even after the end of the lock, the schools and universities initially remained closed.
The South Asian island nation in the Indian Ocean with its tropical beaches is a popular tourist destination, also for Germans and other Europeans. There had been no major attack for years. In 2009, a 26-year civil war had come to an end. Only about seven percent of Sri Lanka's population is Christian. The majority of the 20 million inhabitants are Buddhists.
The series of attacks caused international horror. Pope Francis remembered the victims in front of tens of thousands of believers in Rome. UN General Secretary António Guterres was "shocked at the terrorist attacks on churches and hotels on Easter Sunday, a holy day for Christians around the world". Heads of State and Government, including US President Donald Trump, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and German Chancellor Angela Merkel condemned the attacks sharply.
In solidarity with Sri Lanka, the city hall of Tel Aviv shone in the colors of the island nation. The Eiffel Tower in Paris wanted to give up the traditional night lighting to commemorate the victims in Sri Lanka.
The Federal Foreign Office updated its travel advisories shortly after the attacks, asking travelers to stay away from attacks, track local media, stay in close contact with tour operators and airlines, and follow orders from security forces.