Easter Day bomb blasts at three Sri Lankan churches and three luxury hotels have killed 138 people and wounded more than 400 after a lull in major attacks since the end of the civil war 10 years ago.
The Easter Sunday bombings occurred around 8.45am local time, according to Sri Lanka’s hospital spokesman.
A security official says they suspect the blasts at two churches were carried out by suicide bombers.
In just one church, St Sebastian’s in Katuwapitiya, north of Colombo, more than 50 people had been killed, a police official told Reuters, with pictures showing bodies on the ground, blood on the pews and a destroyed roof.
Media reported 25 people were also killed in an attack on a church in Batticaloa in Eastern Province.
The three hotels hit were the Shangri-La Colombo, Kingsbury Hotel and Cinnamon Grand Colombo. It was unclear whether there were any casualties in the hotels.
Nine foreigners were among the dead, officials said.
There were no immediate claims of responsibility for the attacks in a country which was at war for decades with Tamil separatists until 2009 during which bomb blasts in the capital were common.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe called a national security council meeting at his home for later in the day.
“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,” he said in a tweet.
“Please avoid propagating unverified reports and speculation. The government is taking immediate steps to contain this situation.”
One of the explosions was at St Anthony’s Church in Kochcikade, Colombo.
St. Sebastian’s church posted pictures of destruction inside the church on its Facebook page, showing blood on pews and the floor, and requested help from the public.
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.
This year, the NCEASL recorded 26 such incidents.
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.