Sri Lanka blasts: 4 Indians among 215 killed, indefinite curfew imposed; PM calls for calmhttps://indianexpress.com/article/world/sri-lanka-blasts-colombo-easter-churches-5687109/

Sri Lanka blasts: 4 Indians among 215 killed, indefinite curfew imposed; PM calls for calm

In what is being described as one of the worst attacks in the country, Sri Lanka's Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe called upon Srilankans to remain united. An indefinite curfew has been imposed across the country as security forces conduct raids to nab culprits.

Dead bodies of victims lie inside St. Sebastian’s Church damaged in a blast in Negombo. (AP)

Eight serial explosions ripped through the island nation of Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday killing over 200 and wounding 450 people. The explosions which targeted three churches and prominent hotels went off at around 8:45 am (local time) when the Easter Sunday masses were underway. Seven suspects have been arrested in raids as security agencies spring to action in the country.

Four Indians are among the victims of the serial explosions, the Indian High Commission in Colombo conveyed to the MEA. They have been identified as Lokashini, Narayan Chandrashekhar and Ramesh.  Follow LIVE UPDATES HERE

Video | Many dead after serial blasts in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has appealed his countrymen to remain united. “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. Please avoid propagating unverified reports and speculation. The government is taking immediate steps to contain this situation,” said the prime minister condemning the attack.

An emergency meeting was called by the prime minister and security at various religious institutions was heightened as the government imposed an indefinite curfew across the country. The social media has also been shut down in a bid to control misinformation and fake news.

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Map locating reported bombings on Sunday.

Churches, hotels face the brunt of explosions

The first blast was reported at the St Anthony’s Church in Kochcikade in Colombo, the second from St Sebastian’s Church at Katuwapitiya in Negombo and third from a church in Batticaloa. Three five-star hotels from where the blasts were reported are the Shangrila, the Cinnamon Grand, and the Kingsbury. The seventh blast occurred at a guesthouse in Dehiwala, killing at least two people, while the eighth explosion took place in Dematagoda on the outskirts of Colombo. Two of the explosions are reported to be suicide bombers. Three police officers were killed while conducting a search operation at a suspected safe house in Dematagoda.

See Pics | Multiple blasts rock Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday

Police officials and catholic priests stand inside the church after a bomb blast in Negombo, Sri Lanka. (Reuters)

Describing the site of the blasts as “horrible scenes”, Harsha de Silva, minister of Economic Reforms and Public Distribution said, “I saw many body parts strewn all over. Emergency crews are at all locations in full force.”

No group claims responsibility

No terror group has claimed responsibility for the deadly attack. Describing the blasts as a terrorist attack, Defense Minister Ruwan Wijewardena told reporters Sunday evening that seven suspects had been arrested, though no one immediately claimed responsibility for the blasts. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said that he feared the violence could trigger instability in the country and its economy. The attack is being called the worst since the end of the country’s civil war 25 years ago, in which Tamil Tigers, a rebel group from the ethnic Tamil minority, sought independence from ethnic Sinhala Buddhist majority Sri Lanka.

A Sri Lankan police commando enters a house suspected to be a hideout of militants following a shoot out in Colombo. (AP)

India closely monitoring situation in Sri Lanka

Hours after the serial explosions, India expressed solidarity with its neighbour and said that they are continuously monitoring the situation. The Ministry of External Affairs in a statement said, “We strongly condemn the serial blasts on multiple locations in Sri Lanka today morning in which many people have been killed and injured. We extend our deepest condolences to the families of the victims and to the people and Government of Sri Lanka. We wish a speedy recovery to those injured in the attacks. We call for perpetrators of such ghastly and heinous act and those who provide them support to be brought to justice expeditiously. We stand together with the people and Government of Sri Lanka in this hour of grief.”

Prime Minister Narendra Modi called his Srilankan counterpart and pointed out that these attacks were another grim reminder of the most serious challenge posed to the entire humanity by terrorism in the region and the entire world. The Indian embassy in Sri Lanka has issued emergency assistance numbers: +94777903082 +94112422788 +94112422789, +94777902082, +94772234176.

Relatives of a blast victim grieve outside a morgue in Colombo, Sri Lanka. (AP)

Global condemnation, world leaders denounce attack

Leaders from across the world expressed solidarity with Sri Lanka as the country witnessed the coordinated strikes. Pope Francis lamenting the “grave attacks” on Sri Lankan hotels and churches said, “I want to express my loving closeness to the Christian community, targeted while they were gathered in prayer and all the victims of such cruel violence. I entrust to the Lord all those who were tragically killed and pray for the injured and all those who are suffering as a result of this dramatic event.”

Sri Lanka blasts: Pope condemns Easter attacks as 'cruel violence'
Pope Francis lamenting the “grave attacks” on Sri Lankan hotels and churches. (AP Photo)

Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin, French premiere Emmanuel macron, British PM Theressa May, US President Donald Trump all called for punishing the perpetrators of the “appaling” attack.