A series of bombings has hit luxury hotels and churches in Sri Lanka, killing at least 52 people and wounding hundreds as worshippers were attending Easter Sunday services.
Three of the explosions took place in Catholic churches while three other explosions were reported in luxury hotels – the Cinnamon Grand, Kingsbury and Shangri-La – located in the heart of Colombo.
The explosions took place almost simultaneously. The first was reported in a church located in the capital. The other blasts followed within half an hour.
There were no immediate claims of responsibility.
One of the churches targetted was St Anthony’s in Colombo. The other two were St Sebastian’s in Negombo, about 30km from the capital and another in Batticaloa, 250km east of the capital.
|Debris is seen at St Anthony’s church [Derana TV/via Reuters]|
St Sebastian’s church posted pictures of destruction inside the church on its Facebook page, showing blood on pews and the floor, and requested help from the public.
An official at the Batticaloa hospital told AFP news agency more than 300 people had been admitted with injuries following the blast there.
Police spokesperson Ruwan Gunasekera said that the injured were being evacauted while security forces have cordoned off the areas and search operations are under way.
Photos circulating on social media showed the roof of one church had been almost blown off in the blast.
The floor was littered with a mixture of roof tiles, splintered wood and blood.
Several people could be seen covered in blood, with some trying to help those with more serious injuries.
The images could not immediately be verified.
Only around six percent of mainly Buddhist Sri Lanka is Catholic, but the religion is seen as a unifying force because it includes people from both the Tamil and majority Sinhalese ethnic groups.
Al Jazeera’s Minelle Fernandez, reporting from Colombo, said the crisis was still unfolding.
“We’re hearing that Colombo national hospital is still receiving casualties brought in from the multiple locations.
“In terms of law enforcement, we’ve been hearing that all festivities have been canceled, that security in and around the city has been tightened,” Fernandez reported.
“It’s still very open-ended … it’s too early [to speculate who is behind the attack] but security in the capital and the airport has been stepped up following the attacksm” she added.