The attacks had “brought mourning and sorrow” on the most important of Christian holidays – Pope Francis.
As Christians in Sri Lanka gathered on Sunday morning to celebrate Easter Mass, the culmination of Holy Week, powerful explosions ripped through three churches packed with worshipers, leaving hundreds of victims amid a havoc of splintered and blood-spattered pews.
In what the police said were coordinated attacks carried out by a single group, bombers also struck three five-star hotels popular with tourists. At least 207 people were killed and 450 others injured, a police spokesman, Ruwan Gunasekera, said.
News of the bombings, the largest targeted attack on South Asian Christians in recent memory, rippled out all Easter morning, interrupting celebrations across the world. Pope Francis, after completing a Mass in St. Peter’s Square, said the attacks had “brought mourning and sorrow” on the most important of Christian holidays.
The first wave of bombings struck at the heart of the country’s minority Christian community during busy Easter services at churches in the cities of Colombo, Negombo and Batticaloa.
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.
At least 35 foreigners were among the dead, according to a spokesman at Sri Lanka’s National Hospital. They included British, Chinese, Dutch and Portuguese nationals, according officials and news reports.
The wave of bombings began around 8:45 a.m., and targeted Catholic houses of worship — St. Sebastian’s Church in Negombo, St. Anthony’s Shrine in Colombo and Zion Church in Batticaloa — along with the luxury hotels the Shangri-La, the Cinnamon Grand the Kingsbury.
Seven suspects were arrested in connection with the bombings, Mr. Wijewardene said, adding that suicide bombers had been behind the explosions.