Don’t Give Extremists a Voice, appeals Defence Minister Ruwan Wijewardene
photo Daily Mirror
The toll in a series of eight blasts in SriLanka on Easter Sunday has risen to at least 207, with over 450 people injured, police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera has said.
A series of eight devastating bomb blasts ripped through high-end hotels and churches holding Easter services in Sri Lanka on Sunday, killing at least 207 people, including dozens of foreigners. Ravinatha Aryasinha, secretary to the foreign ministry, told reporters there were 27 bodies of suspected foreign nationals in the Colombo National Hospital.
A police official said earlier that 35 foreigners were among the dead and hospital sources said British, Dutch and American citizens had been killed, with Britons and Japanese also injured. A Portuguese man also died, the country’s LUSA news agency reported.
The first blast was reported at St Anthony’s Shrine, a well-known Catholic church in the capital Colombo. A second deadly explosion was then confirmed at St Sebastian’s, a church in the town of Negombo, north of the capital. Soon after, police confirmed that a third church in the town of Batticaloa had been hit, along with three high-end hotels in the capital. A seventh blast was reported in Dehiwela, near the capital. According to police the eighth blast hit the suburb of Orugodawatta in the north of the capital. The eighth blast was carried out by a suicide bomber.
The nature of the blasts was not immediately clear and there were no immediate claims of responsibility.
Sri Lanka blocks Facebook and Instagram to curb false news reports
Sri Lankan government on Sunday blocked social media platforms like the Facebook and Instagram to prevent the spread of false news reports after a series of blasts killed 207 people.
The Presidential Secretariat said in a statement that the decision to block social media was taken in reaction to false news reports spreading on social media.
The statement said the security forces were conducting comprehensive investigations into the explosions, and that the social media block would continue until investigations were concluded.
“President @MaithripalaS appealed to the nation to act with utmost restraint and patience, and not to be misled by baseless rumors and false stories,” President Sirisena’s office tweeted.
The feature provides a repository for news about the incident, and allows people to mark themselves safe and search for friends who may have been affected.
Sri Lankan law enforcement have urged the public to stay indoors following the blasts. They asked that bystanders not gather at the explosion sites or outside the hospitals where the injured are being brought, according to government official news portal News.LK.
It also reported that passengers departing from Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) will need to be present at the airport at least four hours prior to their departure time, to account for extra security processes.
Sri Lankan Airlines, which is the ground handling agent for all airlines, added that only passengers will be allowed inside the airport terminal.
The airport is located to the north of the capital Colombo, on the outskirts of the city of Negombo, which was the site of at least one bombing today.
Don’t Give Extremists a Voice : Defence Minister Ruwan Wijewardene | Sri Lanka Defence Minister Ruwan Wijewardene has urged media not to publicise the names of today’s attackers as other extremist groups could exploit the situation. “Don’t give extremists a voice. Don’t help to make them martyrs,” he says.
Sri Lanka Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera says that different communities of the country have come together in the wake of these attacks. “In the midst of this tragedy, it’s reassuring to see the outpouring of solidarity as people donate blood. Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Muslim and others are donating because we are humans with the same blood and same spirit of compassion. Nobody can deny our common humanity,” he says.
Police spokesperson Ruwan Gunasekera also tells reporters that at least 27 of those killed in the attacks were foreigners. There have been no immediate claims of responsibility for the attacks.
Sri Lanka Police spokesperson says that the Dematagoda explosion, in which three police officers were killed, took place when Crime Division officers were investigating the earlier hotel bombings and had tracked down a suspect to a house in Mahavila Patumaga in the region