More than 290 people lost their lives and hundreds more wounded in a series of bomb blasts against churches and hotels in Sri Lankan on 21 April 2019 (Easter Sunday).
Defense Minister Ruwan Wijewardena described the bombings as a terrorist attack by religious extremists and said seven suspects had been arrested, though there was no immediate claim of responsibility. He said most of the blasts were believed to have been suicide attacks.
The explosions — mostly in or around Colombo, the capital — collapsed ceilings and blew out windows, killing worshippers and hotel guests in one scene after another of smoke, soot, blood, broken glass, screams and wailing alarms. Victims were carried out of blood-spattered pews.
“People were being dragged out,” said Bhanuka Harischandra, of Colombo, a 24-year-old founder of a tech marketing company who was going to the Shangri-La Hotel for a meeting when it was bombed. “People didn’t know what was going on. It was panic mode.”
He added: “There was blood everywhere.”
Most of those killed were Sri Lankans. But the three bombed hotels and one of the churches, St. Anthony’s Shrine, are frequented by foreign tourists, and Sri Lanka’s Foreign Ministry said the bodies of at least 27 foreigners from a variety of countries were recovered.
The U.S. has confirmed that “several” Americans were among the dead, while Britain, China, Japan and Portugal said they, too, lost citizens.
The Sri Lankan government has already imposed a nationwide curfew from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. and blocked most social media platforms including Facebook, Whatsapp and YouTube, saying it needed to curtail the spread of false information and ease tension in the country of about 21 million people.
The Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe in an interview said he feared the massacre could trigger instability in Sri Lanka, and he vowed to “vest all necessary powers with the defense forces” to take action against those responsible.
The Archbishop of Colombo, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, called on Sri Lanka’s government to “mercilessly” punish those responsible “because only animals can behave like that.”