Easter Day bomb blasts at three Sri Lankan churches and four hotels killed more than 150 people and wounded more than 500, following a lull in major attacks since the end of the civil war 10 years ago.
The explosions, some of which officials said were suicide bomb attacks, led to an immediate clampdown, with the government declaring a curfew and blocking access to most major social media and messaging sites.
The powerful blasts – six in quick succession and then two more hours later – wrought devastation, including at the capital’s well-known St Anthony’s Shrine, a historic Catholic Church.
The three hotels hit in the initial attacks were the Shangri-La Colombo, Kingsbury Hotel in Colombo and the Cinnamon Grand Colombo.
The first six explosions were all reported within a short period in the morning just as church services were starting. Hours later there were two further attacks in the outskirts of Colombo.
Police said at least three of the attacks were carried out by suicide bombers.
Who were the victims?
The death toll rose rapidly to 150 and was expected to rise further still. There were hundreds of people injured in hospitals.
Police reported there were 35 foreigners killed, including British, Dutch and American citizens.
The Foreign Office said it was “urgently seeking” information from authorities in Sri Lanka.
A spokesman said: “We are aware of reports of a number of explosions in Sri Lanka, including Colombo, and we are urgently seeking information from the local authorities.
“British nationals in Sri Lanka should follow the instructions of the local authorities and check FCO travel advice for updates.”
Who was behind the attacks?
Seven suspects were arrested on Sunday afternoon, Sri Lanka’s defense minister said.
The nature of the blasts was not immediately clear and there were no immediate claims of responsibility.
But documents seen by AFP show that Sri Lanka’s police chief Pujuth Jayasundara issued an intelligence alert to top officers 10 days ago, warning that suicide bombers planned to hit “prominent churches”.
“A foreign intelligence agency has reported that the NTJ (National Thowheeth Jama’ath) is planning to carry out suicide attacks targeting prominent churches as well as the Indian high commission in Colombo,” the alert said.
The NTJ is a radical Muslim group in Sri Lanka that was linked last year to the vandalism of Buddhist statues.