(Updated 4/23/19: 8:30 am)
Sri Lanka bombings: 290 dead, hundreds injured in church, hotel explosions on Easter Sunday.
At least 290 people were killed and hundreds more injured on Easter Sunday in Sri Lanka when attackers coordinated series of suicide bombings that simultaneously targeted Christian churches and luxury hotels.
Eight explosions took place miles apart, three at Christian churches during Easter services and three at hotels, commonly used by Western tourists. In addition to those who were killed, at least 450 were wounded, according to officials with police, the Colombo Hospital, and St. Sebastian Church.
Most of the explosions were detonated by suicide bombers, according to the Sri Lankan Defense Ministry.
At least 11 foreigners were confirmed killed in the attacks, including two victims who were dual citizens of the United States and the United Kingdom. One American was also among the missing, officials said.
There were eight simultaneous explosions around 8:45 a.m. local time. Video from inside the St. Sebastian's Church in Negombo, a coastal city about 40 miles north of Colombo, showed the immediate aftermath a bombing there as worshipers who had just been praying for peace found themselves surrounded by devastation, death and chaos.
Meanwhile, Sri Lankan police investigating the bombings are examining reports that intelligence agencies had warnings of possible attacks, officials said Monday.
Two government ministers have alluded to intelligence failures. 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.” He said his father had heard of the possibility of an attack as well and had warned him not to enter popular churches.
Earlier, Defense Minister Ruwan Wijewardena described the blasts as a terrorist attack by religious extremists, and police said 13 suspects had been arrested, though there was no immediate claim of responsibility. Wijewardena said most of the bombings were believed to have been suicide attacks.
Sri Lankan news outlet NewsFirst reported Sunday night that police in the capital city of Colombo, where many of the bombs exploded on Easter, had seized a van and arrested its driver in apparent connection to the bombings. According to the report, police believe this van was used to transport the bombers that attacked four hotels and three churches, many of them in or near Colombo.
That same report also noted that police had located what they believed to be a house in the town of Panadura, about 15 miles south of Colombo, that was sheltering suspects in the bombings.
But officials have yet to say who they believe is behind the attacks. The Tamil Tigers, once a powerful rebel army known for its use of suicide bombers, was crushed by the government in 2009, and had little history of targeting Christians. While anti-Muslim bigotry has swept the island in recent years, fed by Buddhist nationalists, the island also has no history of violent Muslim militants. The country’s small Christian community has seen only scattered incidents of harassment in recent years.
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Police went to inspect the van Monday after people reported it had been parked near St. Anthony's Shrine since Sunday. They discovered three bombs that they tried to defuse. Instead, the bombs detonated, sending pedestrians fleeing in panic.
(Explosion goes off as Sri Lankan police try to defuse bomb near Colombo church)
Isis Claim responsibility for the bombing
• The Islamic State claimed responsibility on Tuesday for the Easter Sunday bombings at churches and hotels in Sri Lanka that killed more than 300 people. The group’s Amaq news agency called the bombers “Islamic State fighters.”
• A government official said the bombings were retaliation for the killing of 50 people last month at mosques in New Zealand, but he did not offer any evidence for the claim. He said they were carried out by two Islamist extremist groups.
VIDEO OF ONE OF THE BOMBERS BEFORE HE SETS OFF THE BOMB