Suicide bombers kill more than 207 people and hurt 500 in ‘targeted attack on Christians’ on Easter Sunday in Sri Lanka

State minister of defence Ruwan Wijewardene said investigators have identified the culprits behind the 'terrorist' attacks (pictuerd: Shangri La hotel, Colombo)

As many as 207 people are dead in an Easter Sunday terrorist attack targeting Christians in Sri Lanka after eight explosions ripped through high-end hotels and churches as suspected suicide bombers blew themselves up. 

Seven suspects have been arrested after the explosions injured up to 500 people, and the country’s foreign minister said at least 27 foreigners were among those killed. Earlier reports indicated that nationals from the UK, US, Netherlands and Portugal were among the dead. 

After an initial six blasts hit three churches and hotels – mostly concentrated near the city of Colombo – a further two were reported later in the day, killing 207 people, a police spokesperson said.  

Britain’s High Commissioner to Sri Lanka James Dauris said: ‘We understand that some British citizens were caught in the blasts but we are unable to say how many people are, or might have been, affected.’ 

Sri Lanka’s defence ministry has now ordered curfew with immediate effect ‘until further notice’, and the Sri Lankan government said it had shut down access to social media messaging services, sources say. 

The country’s police chief had made a nationwide alert 10 days before today’s bombings, warning that Islamic extremists planned suicide bombings at ‘prominent churches’, sources say, but it is not yet clear what group, if any, is responsible for the attacks – and no one has yet claimed responsibility. 

Security forces inspect the St. Anthony’s Shrine after an explosion hit St Anthony’s Church in Kochchikade in Colombo

Security forces inspect the scene after a blast targeting Shangri La hotel in Colombo, Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday
Two of the initial six blasts were suspected to have been carried out by suicide bombers, according to one security official, who spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorised to speak with reporters. 
The official said at least 45 people had been killed in Colombo, where three hotels and a church were hit, along with another 67 in the church attack in Negombo, north of the capital, with another 25 dead at a church in the town of Batticaloa, in the east of the country. 
The three hotels hit were the Shangri-La Colombo, Kingsbury Hotel in Colombo and the Cinnamon Grand Colombo.
The first blasts were reported at St Anthony’s Church in Colombo and St Sebastian’s in the town of Negombo just outside the capital, with another reported at Zion Church in the eastern town of Batticaloa.
A further seventh explosion in the southern Colombo suburb of Dehiwala – which killed two people – and an eighth in the northern suburb of Orugodawatta, which killed three police officers during a house search, were then reported. 
Prime Minister Theresa May today tweeted: ‘The acts of violence against churches and hotels in Sri Lanka are truly appalling, and my deepest sympathies go out to all of those affected at this tragic time. We must stand together to make sure that no one should ever have to practise their faith in fear. 
Sri Lanka’s President Maithripala Sirisena said he was shocked by the explosions and appealed for calm.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe wrote on Twitter: ‘I strongly condemn the cowardly attacks on our people today.
‘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.’
Foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt said he was shocked by the attacks in Sri Lanka, tweeting: ‘I’m deeply shocked and saddened by the horrifying attacks on churches and hotels in Sri Lanka today.
‘To target those gathered for worship on Easter Sunday is particularly wicked.
‘My prayers are with the victims and their families, and with those assisting in the response.’