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Seven arrested as Sri Lanka bombings death toll passes 200

Seven arrested as Sri Lanka bombings death toll passes 200

The first six blasts were triggered nearly simultaneously on Sunday morning in the predominantly Buddhist south Asian country.

"The Colombo crime division. went to a house at [Mahawila Gardens] in Dematagoda, in relation to information received with regard to these hotels explosions", Police Spokesman Ruwan Gunasekara, said at a press conference.

The first wave of attacks struck during busy Easter services at churches in the heart of the country's minority Christian community - in the cities of Colombo, Negombo and Batticaloa.

As the Easter services got underway at churches in the cities of Colombo, Negombo and Batticaloa, the bombers detonated their devices. Six bombs were detonated simultaneously at three churches and three hotels around the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo and its surrounding suburbs.

A view of St. Sebastian's Church damaged in blast in Negombo, north of Colombo, Sri Lanka, Sunday, April 21, 2019.

Officials say at least 27 foreign nationals were killed in today's attack - including Britons.

Security forces inspect the scene after a blast targeting The Kingsbury hotel in Colombo.

According to CBC, Sri Lanka has temporarily blocked social media sites in order to curb the spread of misinformation and the government has declared a state of emergency.

"What's surprising about this is the particularly brutal and coordinated nature of the attacks and targets, this combination of what appear to be Tamil Catholic churches and high-end hotels", he said.

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Media reported earlier in the day that Sri Lankan authorities had imposed a curfew across the country from 6:00 p.m. on Sunday to 6:00 a.m. on Monday local time (from 12:30 p.m. Sunday to 00:30 a.m. Monday GMT) following the attacks.

Defence Minister Ruwan Wijewardena described the bombings as a terrorist attack by religious extremists and said seven suspects had been arrested, though there was no immediate claim of responsibility.

"But obviously our High Commissioner is working on this with his team in the embassy in Colombo, working around the clock, and we are trying to gather as much information as we can about this", he said.

Officials said the eight explosions at churches and hotels, which injured more than 450 people, were suicide bomb attacks.

The explosions blew out the tiled roofs of churches and hotel windows, killing Sunday worshipers and hotel guests in the process.

Two of the blasts were suspected to have been carried out by suicide bombers, a senior official told The Associated Press, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak with reporters. To see an attack in Sri Lanka while people were in churches and at hotels is devastating. "I am horrified by the attacks in Sri Lanka, where so many families were celebrating such a joyous day".

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.

"Serious action need to be taken as to why this warning was ignored", Sri Lanka's Minister of Telecommunications, Harin Fernando, tweeted along with a photo of the memo.

The tourism industry is a major source of income for the country, which turned itself into a popular tourist destination a decade since the end of its civil war.