Stringer/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — At least 207 people were killed and hundreds more injured on Easter Sunday in Sri Lanka when attackers unleashed an apparently coordinated series of bombings that simultaneously targeted Christian churches and luxury hotels, and sent a wave a terror across the globe.
The explosions took place miles apart, and the targets included three Christian churches holding Easter services and three hotels, some commonly used by Western tourists. In addition to those who were killed, at least 450 were wounded, according to officials with police, the Colombo Hospital and St. Sebastian Church.
There were at least nine foreigners among the dead in Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka, an island nation off the southern tip of India in the Indian Ocean, according to the officials. Two dual citizens of the United State and the United Kingdom were among the dead, as well as one Portuguese citizen and two U.K. citizens, according to the Sri Lankan Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
One American was also among the missing. All of the foreigners died in attacks on hotels.
President Donald Trump sent his condolences to the country in an early morning tweet from Mar-a-Lago, where he is spending the Easter holiday.
“The United States offers heartfelt condolences to the great people of Sri Lanka,” he tweeted Sunday morning. “We stand ready to help!”
St. Anthony’s Shrine, a Catholic church in Colombo, and Zion Church, in Batticaloa, were also attacked. Colombo, the country’s capital, is located on the western side of Sri Lanka, while Batticaloa is on the eastern shore.
Shangri-La Hotel, Cinnamon Grand Hotel, and Kingsbury Hotel, all located in Colombo — all popular with tourists — were targeted in the bombings.
Following Easter Mass in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican, Pope Francis condemned the “cruel violence” that “have wrought grief and sorrow.”
“I wish to express my heartfelt closeness to the Christian community [of Sri Lanka], wounded as it was gathered in prayer, and to all the victims of such cruel violence,” Pope Francis said. “I entrust to the Lord all those who have tragically perished, and I pray for the injured and all those who suffer as a result of this tragic event.”
Officials who spoke to ABC News were able to confirm at least 24 people were killed at St. Anthony’s Church, 27 died at Batticaloa’s Zion Church and 81 have died at St. Sebastian Church. There were about 500 people at the Easter Mass at St. Sebastian when the explosion took place, according to officials from the church.
The simultaneous explosions erupted about 8:45 a.m. local time. Video from inside the St. Sebastian’s Church showed the immediate aftermath a bombing there as worshipers who had just been praying for peace found themselves surrounded by devastation and death.
Parishioners, many bleeding, scrambled to carry severely injured people from the church that was littered with overturned chairs, shattered glass and debris that fell from the ceiling.
The blasts were followed by a wail of sirens from emergency vehicles headed to the multiple bombing scenes.
Ruwan Gunasekara, a police spokesman, said that in addition to the 207 killed, approximately 450 people were injured, overwhelming hospitals throughout the island nation.
The National Hospital in Colombo reported that 66 people had died there from injuries suffered in the attacks and that 260 were being treated, Gunasekara said. At the Negombo Hospital, 104 people were reported dead and 100 of the injured were being treated, he said.
Another 37 people were pronounced dead at the Kalubowila, Batticaloa and Brown’s hospitals. Another 89 people were being treated at those medical centers, Gunaskekara said.
“It’s a very, very sad day for all of us. I wish to, therefore, express my deepest sorrow and sympathy to all those innocent families that have lost someone, and also to those who have been injured and rendered destitute,” Malcolm Ranjith, the archbishop of Colombo, said at a news conference. “I would like to call upon all to pray that all those who are injured may be healed soon and that all these families who lost someone may be consoled.
“I condemn to the utmost of my capacity this act that has caused so much death and suffering to the people,” Ranjith said. “I ask all us Sri Lankan people not to take the law into their own hands and to maintain peace and harmony in this country. And I also ask that all those who are able to donate blood in order to help these people who are injured, and then I also appeal to the doctors to please help us.”
Buddhism is the most common religion in Sri Lanka. National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri-Lanka documented the growing number of attacks on Christians in 2018, saying there were 67 from January to September.
Parliamentary member Harsha de Silva said foreigners were among the dead or injured, but did not provide further details.
No one has claimed responsibility for the attacks.
Gunasekara said it was too early to say who was behind the attack or comment on a possible motive.
Sri Lanka has been at times one of the most dangerous locations in the world for terrorist attacks. A civil war that raged for decades between the ruling government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam — known colloquially as the Tamil Tigers or LTTE — officially ended in 2009, but some conflict has continued. As many as 100,000 people were killed in the civil war from 1982 to 2009, according to the U.N.
The U.K. government warns travelers of the risks posed by those visiting the country.
“Terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka can’t be ruled out,” the government advises on its website. “Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places visited by foreigners.”
The U.S. lists Sri Lanka as a Level 1 country, the lowest risk level, which warns travelers to exercise normal precautions.
The country was also divided by a constitutional crisis at the end of 2018 when Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was removed by the country’s president in October, only to later be reinstated in December.
“I strongly condemn the cowardly attacks on our people today,” Wickremesinghe said in a tweet. “I call upon all Sri Lankans during this tragic time to remain united and strong. Please avoid propagating unverified reports and speculation. The government is taking immediate steps to contain this situation.”
The bombings sent shockwaves all the way to the United States, where security was bolstered at churches.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo directed the State Police to boost security patrols at churches and houses of worship across the state.
“New York grieves for the victims of the horrific attacks at churches and hotels in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday,” Cuomo said in a statement. “On behalf of all New Yorkers, I extend my deepest condolences to the people of Sri Lanka, to the families who lost loved ones and to all those grieving around the world.
“In the wake of these despicable acts of violence and out of an abundance of caution, I am directing State Police to increase patrols around churches and houses of worship across the state today,” Cuomo said. “During these troubling times, we will not be intimidated by cowardly acts of violence and will continue to do everything in our power to ensure the safety of all New Yorkers.”
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