‘A river of blood’: Coordinated church bombings leave more than 200 dead in Sri Lanka

Joshua Gill, DCNF

Terrorists killed more than 200 Catholic worshipers and tourists on Easter Sunday morning in Sri Lanka with coordinated bombing attacks on churches and hotels.

The first explosion ripped through St. Sebastian’s Church in the city of Negombo at 8:45 a.m. local time during an Easter service, with deadly blasts following in St. Anthony’s Shrine in the city of Colombo and Zion Church in Batticaloa, The New York Times reported. Members of St. Sebastian posted photos of the aftermath on Facebook, showing a sanctuary strewn with rubble, blood and the wounded.

Bombs also detonated in the hotels Shangri-La, the Kingsbury and the Cinnamon Grand.

The death toll in Sri Lanka rose to 207 people with 450 others admitted to hospitals with injuries Sunday, according to police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera.

“It was a river of blood,” said N. A. Sumanapala, a shopkeeper working near St. Sebastian’s who rushed to help survivors, according to NYT. “The priest came out and he was covered in blood.”

Sri Lankan authorities said it remains unclear who is responsible for the attacks, though they appear to have been coordinated and may have been carried out by suicide bombers.

The massive attack shattered the relative peace that Sri Lanka enjoyed since its long running civil war ended in 2009. While there have been other attacks on occasion, Sunday’s reached a new level of decimation. News of the explosions prompted other churches to shut down their Easter services and evacuate their buildings. Soldiers blocked off roads, volunteers rushed to donate blood and ambulances raced to tend the wounded all over Sri Lanka.

“Our phones were on silent, but one guy got a text about the bomb blast,” said Ranil Thilkaratne, who was attending service at a church in Colombo. “Then he alerted the priest. We stopped the service and moved out.”

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, who is leading Sri Lanka’s government while President Maithripala Sirisena is overseas, condemned the attack and urged the public not to disseminate any misinformation as officials carry out their investigation of the bombings.

Internet transmission reportedly slowed all over Sri Lanka following the attacks in what could be a government attempt to stem the tide of speculation.

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