News of several deadly bombings in three Sri Lankan cities was met with condemnation and sorrow from around the world on Sunday, as the death toll of the attacks climbed past 200.
In what officials in Sri Lanka called suicide bombings, St. Anthony’s Shrine in the capitol city of Colombo, St. Sebastian’s Church in Negombo, and Zion Church in Batticaloa were attacked on Sunday morning as Christians gathered to celebrate Easter. Three hotels in Colombo—the Shangri-La, the Cinnamon Grand, and the Kingsbury—were also bombed.
At least 207 people were killed while about 450 were injured. At least 36 foreign nationals were among the dead, according to the Guardian, including travelers from Great Britain, the Netherlands, China, Portugal, and Turkey.
"I strongly condemn the cowardly attacks on our people today," Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said. "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."
At least 207 people were killed and hundreds more injured in a series of explosions across Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday, one of the most sacred days of the year for Christians. https://t.co/gUxEXHA0z9 pic.twitter.com/tw2U8M6Zlr
— CNN (@CNN) April 21, 2019
— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) April 21, 2019
Bombs have been reported from 8.45 am today in 8 locations in Sri Lanka. Around 207 people have been killed and more than 450 people injured. The injured are admitted to the Colombo National Hospital , Negombo District Hospital , Ragama Hospital and Batticaloa Hospital.#SriLanka pic.twitter.com/WgTOQ0tAUq
— Helix Global News (@helix_news) April 21, 2019
No group had claimed responsibility for the attacks as of Sunday morning, but seven people were arrested for potential connections with the bombings. The arrests were made at a housing complex in Colombo.
Antonio Guterres, the secretary-general of the United Nations, was among the world leaders who condemned the attacks on social media.
"The U.N. stands in solidarity with Sri Lanka as the global community fights hatred and violent extremism together," Guterres said.
I condemn the heinous terrorist attacks on churches and hotels in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday, a sacred day for Christians. The UN stands in solidarity with Sri Lanka as the global community fights hatred and violent extremism together. Holy sites must be respected.
— António Guterres (@antonioguterres) April 21, 2019
U.S. politicians including Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) also offered condolences.
"No person, of any faith, should be fearful in their house of worship," wrote Omar.
As countless people attend Easter service today, our prayers are with the people of Sri Lanka who lost loved ones in these horrible attacks. No person, of any faith, should be fearful in their house of worship.
— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) April 21, 2019
Our hearts go out to the people of Sri Lanka in the wake of this awful Easter Sunday attack. Our thoughts and condolences are with everyone affected.
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— Rep. Barbara Lee (@RepBarbaraLee) April 21, 2019
I'm heartsick for the victims of today’s terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka. Hundreds have been killed and wounded. To slaughter worshippers at church during Easter service is an act of great evil. My thoughts and my prayers are with the victims and their loved ones.
— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) April 21, 2019
The attacks on tourists and Easter worshippers in Sri Lanka are an attack on humanity. On a day devoted to love, redemption, and renewal, we pray for the victims and stand with the people of Sri Lanka.
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) April 21, 2019
I am horrified and heartbroken by the news coming out of Sri Lanka. Hate and terror have no place in houses of worship. My heart goes out to the victims and their families. May God watch over them.
— Elijah E. Cummings (@RepCummings) April 21, 2019
The country's finance minister expressed gratitude for an outpouring of support across the country as well.
In the midst of this tragedy, it's reassuring to see the outpouring of solidarity as people donate blood. Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Muslim & others are donating because we are humans with the same blood & same spirit of compassion.Nobody can deny our common humanity. #lka
— Mangala Samaraweera (@MangalaLK) April 21, 2019
The attacks reportedly began at about 8:45am local time, as worshipers were attending Easter services.
“It was a river of blood," N.A. Sumanapala, who owns a shop near St. Anthony’s Shrine and ran inside to help victims after the blast, told the New York Times. "Ash was falling like snow."
Sri Lanka has enjoyed a period of relative peace over the last decade after a 26-year civil war between government forces and separatists which killed 100,000 people.
"It has been 10 years since we last saw this kind of horror," said Hemasiri Fernando, the country’s defense secretary, in a statement.
The Sri Lankan government temporarily blocked access to social media platforms including Facebook on Sunday, in what President Maithripala Sirisena's secretary called an effort to curb misinformation.
After the attacks targeting Christians, officials warned against cultivating "racial disharmony" by spreading rumors about the perpetrators.
The government also briefly blocked access to social media last year after anti-Muslim violence was apparently fueled by rumors on Facebook.
"There’s an abundance of caution," Sanjana Hattotuwa, a researcher at the Center for Policy Alternatives, told the Guardian. "What we find is that communities are being targeted for the action of individuals. Given that it’s now in the public domain that these were suicide bombings involved, a particular community is going to get targeted."