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Information was there, must find why adequate precautions weren't taken: PM Wickremesinghe on Sri Lanka blasts

Sri Lankan military officials stand guard in front of the St. Anthony's Shrine, Kochchikade church after an explosion in Colombo, Sri Lanka April 21, 2019. Photograph:( Reuters )

WION Web Team New Delhi, Delhi, India Apr 21, 2019, 09.52 PM (IST)

Eight people have been arrested in connection with a string of deadly blasts that killed more than 200 people in Sri Lanka on Sunday, country's Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said.

"So far the names that have come up are local," but investigators would look into whether the attackers had any "overseas links," Wickremesinghe added.

The Prime Minister acknowledged that the "information was there" about possible attacks, news agency AFP reported. 

"While this goes, on we must also look into why adequate precautions were not taken," he said.

Wickremesinghe added that the government's first priority would be to "apprehend the terrorists and ensure that terrorism does not lift its head in Sri Lanka."

Seven people were arrested earlier in the day and three police officers were killed during a raid on a house in Sri Lankan capital Colombo on Sunday.

Over 200 killed, 450 wounded

The death toll from the multiple bombings at Sri Lankan churches and hotels rose past 200, police and local media said. As many as 450 people have been wounded. 

"Altogether we have information of 207 dead from all hospitals. According to the information as of now, we have 450 injured people admitted to hospitals," Police Spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera told reporters in Colombo.

Multiple blasts

Easter Day bomb blasts were reported at three Sri Lankan churches and three luxury hotels earlier today.

The three hotels that were hit were the Shangri-La Colombo, Kingsbury Hotel in Colombo and the Cinnamon Grand Colombo in the capital city, news agency Reuters reported. 

St Anthony's Shrine, a Catholic Church in Kochcikade, Colombo, was one of the churches where a blast was reported on Sunday along with an explosion at St Sebastian's gothic-style Catholic church in Katuwapitiya, north of Colombo and an explosion that hit an evangelical church in Batticaloa in Eastern Province.

Later in the day, the Sri Lankan police reported the seventh explosion, the fourth at a hotel near the national zoo, which is in an area near the capital Colombo, Reuters reported. 

The latest and the eighth in the series of Easter Day explosions occurred in the suburb of Orugodawatta in the north of the capital city Colombo. 

Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe called for an emergency parliamentary session. 

Nation-wide curfew

The Sri Lankan government imposed a nationwide curfew on Sunday that the police said would go into effect immediately and would last "until further notice".

Sri Lanka's defence ministry initially said the curfew would be imposed overnight, but the police subsequently said it would go into effect straight away.

Sri Lanka's government said Sunday it would impose a "temporary" social media ban.

"The government has decided to block all social media platforms in order to prevent incorrect and wrong information being spread. This is only a temporary measure" Udaya R Seneviratne, secretary to the president said in a statement.

Three Indians killed

Three Indians have lost their lives in the serial blasts in Sri Lanka that killed over 200 people on Sunday. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj in a tweet said, "The Indian High Commission in Colombo has conveyed that the National Hospital has informed them about the death of three Indian nationals."

Several Americans lost lives

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that several Americans were among the more than 200 people killed Sunday in Sri Lanka, news agency AFP reported.

"While many details of the attacks are still emerging, we can confirm that several US citizens were among those killed," he said in a statement. 

"The US Embassy is working tirelessly to provide all possible assistance to the American citizens affected by the attacks and their families."

The attacks, which police said left more than 450 people wounded in addition to at least 207 dead, constituted the worst act of violence since the end of Sri Lanka's civil war a decade ago.

Also among the fatalities were three people from Denmark, two from Turkey, and one from Portugal, officials said. There were also Chinese and Dutch among the dead, according to media reports.

Attack on Christians

Last year, there were 86 verified incidents of discrimination, threats and violence against Christians, according to the National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka (NCEASL), which represents more than 200 churches and other Christian organisations, news agency Reuters reported.

This year, the NCEASL recorded 26 such incidents, including one in which Buddhist monks allegedly attempted to disrupt a Sunday worship service, with the last one reported on March 25.

Out of Sri Lanka's total population of around 22 million, 70 per cent are Buddhist, 12.6 per cent Hindu, 9.7 per cent Muslim and 7.6 per cent Christian, according to the country's 2012 census.

(With inputs from agencies) 

 

Story highlights

The death toll from the multiple bombings at Sri Lankan churches and hotels rose past 200, police and local media said. As many as 450 people have been wounded.