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Blasts at Sri Lanka hotels and churches kill more than 200

Colombo:A a series of eight blasts in Sri Lanka on Sunday killed at least 207 people and injured over 450 others, police said on Sunday.

Addressing a press conference, he said three people had been arrested in connection with the attacks targeting high-end hotels and churches where worshippers were attending Easter services.

The police were investigating whether suicide bombers were involved in all of the blasts.

It was the worst act of violence since the end of Sri Lanka´s civil war a decade ago.

The government imposed an immediate and indefinite curfew across the entire country of 21 million people.

The powerful eight blast out of blasts took place — six in quick succession and then two more hours later — wrought devastation, including at the capital´s well-known St Anthony´s Shrine, a historic Catholic Church.

At least two of the attacks were confirmed as being carried out by suicide bombers, according to police sources and a hotel official.

Hospital sources said British, Dutch and American citizens were among the dead, with Britons and Japanese also injured. A Portuguese man also died, the country´s LUSA news agency reported.

An AFP photographer at the scene at St Anthony´s saw bodies lying on the floor, some draped with scarves and clothes.

Much of the church roof was blown out in the explosion, with roof tiles, glass and splintered wood littering the floor along with pools of blood.

At the Shangri-La hotel, an AFP photographer saw extensive damage on the second floor restaurant, with windows blown out and electrical wires hanging from the ceiling.

The injured flooded into local hospitals, where officials reported hundreds of wounded were being admitted.

– Police chief warning –

There were no immediate claims of responsibility for the blasts, but documents seen by AFP show that Sri Lanka´s police chief Pujuth Jayasundara issued an intelligence alert to top officers 10 days ago, warning that suicide bombers planned to hit “prominent churches”.

“A foreign intelligence agency has reported that the NTJ (National Thowheeth Jama´ath) is planning to carry out suicide attacks targeting prominent churches as well as the Indian high commission in Colombo,” the alert said.

The NTJ is a radical Muslim group in Sri Lanka that was linked last year to the vandalisation of Buddhist statues.

The government ordered a nationwide curfew to start immediately and last “until further notice”, and a “temporary” social media ban was imposed “in order to prevent incorrect and wrong information being spread”.

The first blast was reported at St Anthony´s, followed by a second deadly explosion at St Sebastian´s, a church in the town of Negombo, north of the capital.

“A bomb attack to our church, please come and help if your family members are there,” read a post in English on the church´s Facebook page.

Soon after, police confirmed that a third church in the east-coast town of Batticaloa had been hit, along with three high-end hotels in the capital — the Cinnamon Grand, the Shangri-La and the Kingsbury.

An official at the Cinnamon Grand, near the prime minister´s official residence in Colombo, said a suicide bomber blew himself up at people at the hotel´s restaurant.

“He came up to the top of the queue and set off the blast,” he told AFP.

A police official told AFP that the death toll after the first six blasts was at least 156, including 35 foreigners.

Later in the afternoon, two died in a strike at a hotel in the south of Colombo, while a police source said a suicide bomber hit the suburb of Orugodawatta in the north of the capital, killing three and bringing the overall toll to at least 161.-AFP

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