Simultaneous blasts occurred in Sri Lanka Easter Sunday morning at three churches and three hotels. At least 200 people are dead and 500 are injured.
At least 290 people, including “several” Americans, were killed in a string of suicide bombings carried out by a domestic militant group at churches and luxury hotels on Easter Sunday in Sri Lanka, government officials said Monday.
All seven suicide bombers were Sri Lankan citizens and from the group National Thowfeek Jamaath, however officials suspect foreign links, Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne told reporters.
The attack, which also injured more than 500 people, was the deadliest violence in Sri Lanka, the the South Asian island nation, since its civil war ended a decade ago, police spokesperson Ruwan Gunasekara said.
Here’s what we know now:
Six nearly simultaneous explosions hit three hotels and three churches as worshipers gathered for Easter services in the cities of Colombo, Negombo and Batticaloa.
Hours later, there were two more blasts, one at a guesthouse that killed two people and another near an overpass in the area of Dematagoda on the outskirts of the capital of Colombo, according to a Sri Lankan military spokesman, Brig. Sumith Atapattu.
Ariyananda Welianga, a government forensic crime investigator, said all the attacks were carried out by a single bomber, with two at Colombo’s Shangri-La Hotel.
“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 city’s 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.”
Police found more bombs Monday, some exploded
A van parked outside one of the churches that was bombed exploded Monday, but no one was injured.
Police found three bombs on the van that had been parked outside since Sunday. They were trying to defuse the bombs when they detonated.
Officials also say they’ve found 87 bomb detonators in Colombo. Twelve were found at the city’s main bus depot and 75 more at a garbage dump in the area.
Who is dead?
Most of the 290 people killed in the attacks were Sri Lankans.
At least 39 foreign tourists were killed and 28 were wounded, Sri Lanka’s minister of tourism.
Among them were citizens of the U.S., United Kingdom, Australia, China, Japan and Portugal.
Who is responsible?
Officials say the local militant group National Thowfeek Jamaath carried out the attacks.
At least 24 people were in custody for questioning Monday and seven confirmed suicide bombers, authorities said. However, no group has claimed responsibility.
Officials also believe that the group was working in a larger international network.
Did Sri Lanka know an attack was coming?
Sri Lankan government officials have suggested there was some indication an attack could occur.
Telecommunications Minister Harin Fernando tweeted, “Some intelligence officers were aware of this incidence. Therefore there was a delay in action. Serious action needs to be taken as to why this warning was ignored.”
Mano Ganeshan, the minister for national integration, also said his ministry’s security officers had been warned about possible suicide bombings.
“We placed our hands on our heads when we came to know that these deaths could have been avoided.” Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, the archbishop of Colombo, said.
How is the US responding?
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemned the attacks in a statement.
“Attacks on innocent people gathering in a place of worship or enjoying a holiday meal are affronts to the universal values and freedoms that we hold dear, and demonstrate yet again the brutal nature of radical terrorists whose sole aim is to threaten peace and security,” he said.
The State Department also issued a travel advisory Sunday to “exercise increased caution in Sri Lanka due to terrorism.”
President Donald Trump tweeted his condolences to the victims early Sunday morning, initially stating that the explosions killed “at least 138 million people.” The inaccurate tweet stayed up for about 20 minutes before it was deleted, and a new statement was issued with the same pledge to help and the accurate number of fatalities.
Where is Sri Lanka?
The island nation of about 21 million people is just off the southern tip of India.
It has been relatively peaceful since a bloody civil war ended, though its various factions continued to jostle for power.
The majority are Sinhalese, mostly Buddhist. The minority Tamil are Hindu, Muslim and Christian. Christians, targeted in Sunday’s attacks, have a lower profile than some of the other factions.
Contributing: Kirk Bado and Chris Woodyard, USA TODAY; The Associated Press
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