update 2: A ninth bomb found at the Colombo International Airport in Sri Lanka had reportedly sent the major international flight hub into lockdown for hours.
Local media, citing military officials, says it was successfully defused:
A spokesman for the Sri Lankan Air Force claims a massive PVC pipe packed with explosives was "discovered on the way to Colombo International and defused by the Air Force".
All major social media networks were reported blocked in the country shortly after the series of eight bomb attacks on churches and luxury hotels - mostly in Colombo - making information slow to come out.
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update: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said in a statement hours after the string of at least 8 coordinated bombing attacks as Easter services were underway that "several" Americans have been killed, though without giving specifics.
Local authorities have said further that 5 British nationals were killed, two of which had dual American citizens. Police are still attempting to identify some among the over 200 deceased, as Reuters reports:
“Altogether, we have information of 207 dead from all hospitals. According to the information as of now we have 450 injured people admitted to hospitals,” police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera told reporters.
Three churches in various parts of the country and four hotels in Colombo were hit. At least 27 of the dead were foreigners, including five British people, two of whom had dual U.S. citizenship, and three Indians, according to officials in those countries.
Sri Lankan authorities have still not officially identified a culprit, nor have any militant groups claimed responsibility, this as multiple suspects were reportedly arrested in connection with the string of near simultaneous bombings of churches and luxury hotels, mostly in the capital of Colombo.
However, as Time reports:
News agency AFP says it has seen documents that show that Sri Lankan police have been on the alert for several days, fearing that suicide bombers from a local radical Muslim group, the National Thowheeth Jama’ath (NTJ) were targeting prominent churches.
AFP also reported that Sri Lankan police seized a haul of explosives and detonators in January after arresting four men “from a newly formed radical Muslim group.”
A number of Sri Lankan Muslims were known to have joined ISIS in Syria, according to Reuters.
All major social media networks have been reported blocked in the country, making information slow to come out.
Confirmed: Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, YouTube, Viber, Snapchat and Messenger blocked in #SriLanka following series of deadly church and hotel attacks; incident ongoing #EasterSundayAttacksLK #KeepItOn ⬇️https://t.co/xp4hSxvFOi pic.twitter.com/dcQ6COsWKB— NetBlocks.org (@netblocks) April 21, 2019
Some 30 foreigners total were believed killed in the attacks. A US State Dept. statement said "the US Embassy was working to provide possible assistance to the Americans affected by the attacks."
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Just as Sri Lanka's minority Christian population gathered to celebrate Easter at churches across the nation on Sunday morning, six nearly simultaneous explosions ripped through three churches and three high-end hotels packed with tourists.
Local police have said they believe at least two of the church blasts were carried out by suicide bombers in a highly coordinated attack, leaving over 200 people dead and multiple hundreds more injured, including more than 27 foreigners, according to the AP.
The first bombing targeted St. Anthony’s Shrine in the country's capital of Colombo, while the second hit St. Sebastian’s Church in Negombo, a Catholic majority town north of Colombo.
The churches, which also included a third in Batticaloa, were targeted as worshippers gathered for Easter service at 8:45am local time. A seventh blast was reported near the national zoo in Colombo after the first six, and CNN reports there may have been up to eight bomb sites.
Three luxury hotels in Colombo were also targeted, identified in international reports as the Shangri La, Cinnamon Grand and Kingsbury.
As the NYT reports, a witness, Sarita Marlou, who was at the Shangri-La hotel, wrote in a Facebook post that one blast occurred at 8:57 a.m. in the Table One Restaurant on the third floor where people had gathered for brunch.
“Felt the blast all the way up to the 17th floor where we were sleeping,” she wrote. “Few minutes later, we were asked to evacuate the hotel. While running down the stairs, saw a lot of blood on the floor but we were still clueless as to what really happened.”
Marlou posted that the guests had been stuck outside for more than two hours before being ushered back inside as the sun got hot. Meanwhile, N. A. Sumanapala, a shopkeeper near St. Anthony’s Shrine who said he had run inside to help, said: “It was a river of blood. Ash was falling like snow.”
There appears to have also been a possible shootout between suspected attackers and police as at least one Sri Lankan officer was reported to have died while raiding a location believed to house some of the terror attack plotters.
Map of the locations of the attacks in #SriLanka #Easter in which more than 100 murdered, we can see the important hotels struck all in a line in the central areas, churches were struck also north and east of the city, one on east coast. pic.twitter.com/OnZL9HBmBd— Seth Frantzman (@sfrantzman) April 21, 2019
The country's defense minister announced later in the day that seven suspects linked to the blasts have been arrested.
Meanwhile the prime minister condemned the attacks as "cowardly" and a nationwide curfew has been imposed.
Eyewitnesses reported the ground shaking in the vicinity of some of the blasts, with other reports citing witnesses who saw severed body parts outside one of the luxury hotels hit.
No group has yet to claim responsibility for the deadly Easter morning attack, though Sri Lankan Christians as a sizable minority at about 8% have reported at uptick of persecution and threats coming from Muslims and majority Buddhist population.
Theravada Buddhism is the official religion of Sri Lanka, at about 70% of the population. The vast majority of Sri Lanka's Christians are Roman Catholic.
President Trump has offered US assistance in the wake of the Easter terror attacks now gripping world headlines.
138 people have been killed in Sri Lanka, with more that 600 badly injured, in a terrorist attack on churches and hotels. The United States offers heartfelt condolences to the great people of Sri Lanka. We stand ready to help!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 21, 2019
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The Easter Sunday attacks are the worst single day violence the country has seen since its civil war ended a decade ago. Via Bloomberg:
Sri Lanka’s ability to attract direct foreign investments is expected to diminish following the attacks on Sunday, according to Raffaele Bertoni, head of debt-capital markets at Gulf Investment Corp. in Kuwait City. This morning’s events along with rising political tensions and lower economic activity will have an impact on assets starting with the rupee. He sees the rupee weakening to 180 per dollar.
This after the Rupee closed at 174.11 a dollar on Thursday.