Sri Lanka lifts curfew as death toll rises to 290, around 500 injured

COLOMBO  – Authorities lifted a curfew in Sri Lanka on Monday, a day after a string of bombings at churches and luxury hotels across the Indian Ocean island killed 290 people and wounded about 500, but there were warnings more attacks were possible.

There was still no claim of responsibility for the Easter Sunday attacks on two churches and four hotels in and around Colombo, the capital of predominantly Buddhist Sri Lanka, and a third church on the South Asian nation’s northeast coast.

A government source said President Maithripala Sirisena, who was abroad when the attacks happened, had called a meeting of the National Security Council early on Monday. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe would attend the meeting, the source said.

Sri Lankan military who were clearing the route from Colombo airport late on Sunday in preparation for Sirisena’s return found a homemade bomb near the departure gate, an air force spokesman said.

There were fears the attacks could spark a renewal of communal violence, with police also reporting late on Sunday there had been a petrol bomb attack on a mosque in the northwest and arson attacks on two shops owned by Muslims in the west.

Sri Lanka was at war for decades with Tamil separatists but extremist violence had been on the wane since the civil war

The South Asian nation of about 22 million people has Christian, Muslim and Hindu populations of between about eight and 12 percent.

The U.S. State Department issued a revised travel warning that said “terrorist groups” were continuing to plot possible attacks.

A British mother and son eating breakfast at the luxury Shangri-La hotel were among those killed, Britain’s The Telegraph newspaper reported.

One Australian survivor, identified only as Sam, told Australia’s 3AW radio the hotel was a scene of “absolute carnage”.

He said he and a travel partner were also having breakfast at the Shangri-La when two blasts went off. He said he had seen two men wearing backpacks seconds before the blasts.

“There were people screaming and dead bodies all around,” he said. “Kids crying, kids on the ground, I don’t know if they were dead or not, just crazy.”

There were similar scenes of carnage at two churches in or near Colombo, and a third church in the northeast town of Batticaloa, where worshippers had gathered for Easter Sunday services. Pictures from the scene showed bodies on the ground and blood-spattered pews and statues.

Dozens were killed in one of the blasts at the Gothic-style St. Sebastian church in Katuwapitiya, north of Colombo. Police said they suspected that blast was a suicide attack.

Three police officers were also killed when security forces raided a house in Colombo several hours after the attacks.Police reported an explosion at the house.

Reuters

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