Sri Lanka attack death toll rises to 290
Several US citizens were among those killed in the Sri Lanka attacks, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement.
He did not offer any more details on the victims, but said that the US Embassy was working to provide possible assistance to the Americans affected by the attacks.
Here's his statement:
The United States condemns in the strongest terms the terror attacks in Sri Lanka on Easter morning. Attacks on innocent people gathering in a place of worship or enjoying a holiday meal are affronts to the universal values and freedoms that we hold dear, and demonstrate yet again the brutal nature of radical terrorists whose sole aim is to threaten peace and security.
The United States offers our deepest condolences to the families and friends of those killed and wishes a quick recovery to all who were injured. While many details of the attacks are still emerging, we can confirm that several U.S. citizens were among those killed. The U.S. Embassy is working tirelessly to provide all possible assistance to the American citizens affected by the attacks and their families.
These vile attacks are a stark reminder of why the United States remains resolved in our fight to defeat terrorism. We stand with the Sri Lankan government and people as they confront violent extremism and have offered our assistance as they work to bring the perpetrators to justice.
Five British citizens, including two dual US-UK nationals, were killed in the bombings, according to a statement from Sri Lanka’s Foreign Ministry.
The UK Foreign Office has not yet confirmed the deaths. Earlier, Britain’s High Commissioner to Sri Lanka said he spoke with injured Britons in hospital.
Additionally, nine foreign nationals are reported missing, and there are 25 unidentified bodies believed to be of foreigners at the Colombo Judicial Medical Officer’s mortuary.
As of 6 p.m. local time, 19 foreign nationals were receiving treatment at the Colombo National Hospital.
No foreigners have been admitted with injuries or declared dead at the Negombo and Batticaloa General Hospitals or the Colombo North Teaching Hospital, the directors of those hospitals said.
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All Easter services scheduled for Sunday evening have been canceled, Archbishop of Colombo Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith's House said.
Ranjith condemned the explosions and offered condolences for the victims' families, calling the attacks unacceptable.
The Easter Sunday attacks were the work of suicide bombers, High Commissioner of Sri Lanka to the UK, Manisha Gunasekera, tells CNN.
She says seven people were arrested in connection with the attacks but could not confirm their nationalities.
“There is also information that these have been suicide bombings carried out. These are certainly acts of terror,” Gunasekera adds.
"It's been a day of great tragedy for Sri Lanka. The scale is unprecedented."
She says it’s unknown "which group or groups carried out these attacks” but “this is an attack against the whole of Sri Lanka because Sri Lanka is very multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multi-cultural country and the whole country comes together in celebration of Easter Sunday.”
Three police officers were killed in an explosion during a raid on a house in Dematagoda, Colombo, according to police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekara.
Following attacks on churches and hotels across the country, officers visited the house to question people inside, but were killed in two explosions, said Gunasekara during a press conference.
"One sub inspector and two constables of police have been killed, and one constable was taken to the national hospital with wounds," he said.
Sri Lanka's minority Christian community appear to be the main target of the Easter Sunday attacks that risk upsetting the country's fragile post-war peace.
Christianity is a minority religion in Sri Lanka, accounting for less than 10% of the total population of 21.4 million.
According to census data:
- 70.2% of Sri Lankans identify as Buddhist
- 12% Hindu
- 9.7% Muslim
- 7.4% Christian. It is estimated that 82% of Sri Lankan Christians are Roman Catholic.
Tensions between the majority Sinhalese and the Tamil minority led to a 25-year insurgency between the Tamil Tigers, classified by the US and others as a terrorist organization, and government forces.
More than 70,000 people died in the fighting, which ended when Sri Lankan forces defeated the Tamil Tigers in 2009.
In recent years, the country has witnessed a surge in ultra-nationalist Buddhism led by the Bodu Bala Sena, the country's most powerful Buddhist organization, which has pledged to defend the religion.
Former US President Barack Obama called the Easter Sunday bombings "an attack on humanity."
It's still not clear who was behind Sunday's bombings.
What is apparent, is that these coordinated Easter Sunday attacks -- carried out at eight sites, including churches and hotels across Sri Lanka -- were targeted at Christians celebrating one of their holiest days of the year.
The blasts also come a month before Sri Lanka is due to mark the 10-year anniversary of the end of its civil war in 2009.
CNN's International Diplomatic Editor Nic Robertson has this analysis:
"It is a very confused picture in terms of who may or may not be responsible. The Sri Lankan civil war ended 10 years ago, a 25 year long civil war, and the Tamil separatists there were a secular group. It would be very, very unlike them and their tactics ever to attack churches and particularly on such a holy day."
"It has the hallmarks -- or is intended to have the hallmarks -- of Islamic extremists. But, again, these kinds of groups are unknown in Sri Lanka."