Suicide bombers struck churches and hotels in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday, killing at least 290 people in a highly coordinated attack targeting Christians and foreigners that left this island nation reeling.
No group claimed responsibility for the attacks, the deadliest violence here since the end of the civil war a decade ago.
Police arrested 13 people in connection with the bombings, and three police officers were killed during a raid at a suspect’s home. Sri Lankan officials did not identify those arrested or discuss a motive for the attacks. At least 450 were injured in the attacks, according to a police spokesman.
Images of splintered pews and bloodstained floors played across local television screens Sunday as the enormity of the attacks, launched on the holiest day of the Christian calendar, became clear.
The dead included “several” Americans, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said. He blamed “radical terrorists” for the attacks.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe told reporters Sunday that some government officials had prior intelligence about the attacks but didn’t act on it.
“Information was there,” he said at a news conference. “This is a matter we need to look into.”
A letter circulating on social media appeared to be a notice issued by a senior police official on April 11, warning of potential attacks on churches by a little-known Islamist extremist group. The letter could not be independently verified.
Sri Lanka is a predominantly Buddhist nation, but it’s also home to significant Hindu, Muslim and Christian communities. A popular destination for tourists, the country has been largely peaceful since the end of its 26-year civil war.
While there has been intermittent conflict between religious groups – including threats to Christians – nothing remotely like Sunday’s attacks had occurred here.
Blasts ripped through three churches in the cities of Colombo, Negombo and Batticaloa at about 8:45 a.m. as worshippers were gathering for services, police said. Bombers also struck three hotels and a banquet hall in Colombo, the capital.
Ruwan Wijewardene, Sri Lanka’s defense minister, said the attacks were carried out by suicide bombers. Six of the attacks occurred between 8:45 and 9:30 a.m.
There was a seventh blast at a banquet hall about 2 p.m. and an eighth at the house raided by police around 2:45 p.m.