Easter Sunday bombings kill more than 200 in Sri Lanka churches, hotels

Media playback is unsupported on your device                  Media caption Deadly explosions strike across Sri Lanka

The UN initially estimated the death toll from 26 years of fighting to be about 1,00,000, but a UN experts' panel later said some 45,000 ethnic Tamils may have been killed in the last months of the fighting alone.

No group has claimed responsibility of the attacks and Foreign Secretary Ravinatha Ariyasinghe said at least 27 foreigners - hailing mostly from India, Pakistan, US, Morocco and Bangladesh - were killed in the explosions.

Local Christian groups have said they faced increasing intimidation from some extremist Buddhist monks in recent years. Tensions between the majority Sinhalese and the Tamil minority led to a 25-year insurgency between the Tamil Tigers, classified by the U.S. and others as a terrorist organization, and government forces.

According to CNN, 290 have been killed and over 400 injured following the co-ordinated attacks, which targeted hotels and churches in Colombo, Negombo and Batticaloa. Pictures from the site showed bodies on the ground, blood on the church pews and a destroyed roof.

Local media reported 25 people were killed in the attack.

In Colombo, St Anthony's Shrine and the Cinnamon Grand, Shangri-La and Kingsbury hotels were targeted today as Christians celebrated Easter Sunday.

The first six explosions were all reported within a short period in the morning just as church services were starting.

There was an eighth explosion at a house in Colombo.




Three police officers were killed while conducting a search at a suspected safe house in Dematagoda, on the outskirts of Colombo.

Global intelligence agencies had warned that the little-known group, National Thowfeek Jamaath, was planning attacks, but word apparently didn't reach the prime minister's office until after the massacre, exposing the continuing political turmoil in the highest levels of the Sri Lankan government. I call upon all Sri Lankans during this tragic time to remain united and strong. "Please avoid propagating unverified reports and speculation", Wickremesinghe tweeted. "The government is taking immediate steps to contain this situation". After a gunman used Facebook to broadcast the deadly shooting, Facebook said it might limit who can stream live video.

A ninth improvised explosive device (IED) was diffused near the capital's Bandarayanake International Airport on Sunday evening, according to an Air Force spokesman.

Here, exhausted medical staff take a rest outside the morgue in Batticaloa, after a bomb was set off in the city's Zion Church.

Last year, there were 86 verified incidents of discrimination, threats and violence against Christians, according to the National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka (NCEASL), which represents more than 200 churches and other Christian organisations.

Sri Lanka, an island nation of some 23 million people, was dominated for decades by the sharp divide between the majority Sinhalese, who are overwhelmingly Buddhist, and the minority Tamil, who are Hindu, Muslim and Christian. The tour was supposed to end in Colombo, but tour operators said the group may skip the capital in light of the attacks.

"New Zealand condemns all acts of terrorism and our resolve has only been strengthened by the attack on our soil", Ardern said.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in a statement: "To the handsome people of Sri Lanka, Australia sends its heartfelt sympathies and our prayers and our support - and our offer to do whatever we can to support you in this bad time of need".

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