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Death toll in Sri Lanka Easter bombings at 290

A relative of a victim of the explosion at St. Anthony's Shrine, Kochchikade church, reacts at the police mortuary in Colombo, Sri Lanka April 21, 2019. Photo Credit: REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte

Death toll in Sri Lanka Easter bombings at 290

Death toll in Sri Lanka Easter bombings at 290

Sri Lanka was hit by a series bombs on Easter Sunday, the worst violence to hit the South Asian country since its civil war ended a decade ago. The death toll now sits at 290, here is what you need to know.

A series of coordinated explosions has rocked eight churches and hotels in Sri Lanka killing at least 209 people on Easter Sunday, CNN reports.

Most of the victims were killed in three churches where worshippers were attending Easter Sunday services. Three other bombings struck luxury hotels – the Cinnamon Grand, Kingsbury and Shangri-La – located in the heart of the capital Colombo, killing at least 35 foreignen worshippers.

It is not yet clear who is behind the explosions that forced the country of 21 million people to go on lockdown, they have been described as acts of terror.

Sri Lanka’s defence minister has blamed “religious extremists” for what he called the “unfortunate terrorist incident”. Defence Minister Ruwan Wijewardena told reporters that he believed police and military forces had identified the perpetrators of the blasts.

The majority of Sri Lankans are Buddhist – 70 per cent, mostly Sinhalese – while 12 per cent are Hindus, mostly Tamils, Muslims count 10 per cent of the population, and Christians about six percent.

A security officer stands in front of St Anthony’s shrine in Colombo, after bomb blasts ripped through churches and luxury hotels on Easter, in Sri Lanka April 22, 2019. Photo Credit: REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

Prior warning

There are reports that an intelligence memo warning of a possible attack was circulated 10 days prior to the attackes, raising questions about whether more preventative measures could have been taken.

According to Aljazeera, Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has acknowledged that “information was there” about possible attacks before bomb blasts ripped through churches and hotels in Colombo and two other towns. “While this goes on we must also look into why adequate precautions were not taken,” he told the news network.

On Sunday, Ruwan Gunasekara, a police spokesperson, said 13 suspects have been arrested in connection with the bombings.

Sri Lanka’s government also moved to block Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram – all owned by Facebook – out of concern that “false news reports … spreading through social media” could lead to further violence.

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