Chinese President, premier express condolence to Sri Lanka over deadly attacks

Sri Lanka easter bombings

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang on Sunday sent condolence messages to their Sri Lankan counterparts, respectively, after multiple deadly attacks shook the country.

In his message to Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena, Xi said that he was shocked to know the series of explosions in Sri Lanka, which have caused large casualties.

“I, on behalf of the Chinese government and people, as well as myself, send my deep condolences to the victims, and my sincere sympathy to the injured and families of the victims,” he added.

The Chinese government and people will firmly stand by the people of Sri Lanka and firmly support the Sri Lankan government’s effort to maintain national security and stability, Xi said.

On the same day, Premier Li Keqiang also sent condolences to Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe over the attacks.

Russian President Vladimir Putin called the attacks “cruel and cynical”, while voicing confidence that “the perpetrators and the masterminds of such crimes committed amid the Easter festivities will get the punishments they deserve”.

British Prime Minister Theresa May said, “The acts of violence against churches and hotels in Sri Lanka are truly appalling, and my deepest sympathies go out to all of those affected at this tragic time”.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan condemned the attacks, calling them “an assault on all of humanity.”

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said his thoughts are with the bereaved families. “There is no place for such barbarism in our region,” he tweeted.

Death toll rises past 200

The death toll from a rash of bombings at churches and hotels in Sri Lanka rose past 250, police and local media said.

“Altogether we have information of 262 dead from all hospitals. According to the information as of now we have 452 injured people admitted to hospitals,” Police Spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera told reporters in Colombo.

Altogether eight explosions have ripped through the country so far, with six blasts hitting in the morning and two in the afternoon. The curfew has been imposed from 6 pm Sunday to 6 am local time on Monday.

The Morning explosions occurred when hundreds of worshipers gathered at churches to commemorate Easter Sunday, the police said.

Police spokesperson SP Ruwan Gunasekara said two explosions were reported from St. Anthony’s Church in Kochchikade in capital Colombo and another church in Katana on the outskirts of the capital; a third explosion was reported from a church in Batticaloa in the east.

Television footage also showed blasts in three hotels — the Cinnamon Grand, Shangri-La and Kingsbury hotels in the capital, which occurred following the church blasts.

2 Chinese citizens died

Two Chinese nationals were confirmed killed, the Chinese Embassy in Colombo said.

The embassy is verifying the number of Chinese injured in the attacks.

Earlier information from the embassy said that four Chinese nationals were injured in the multiple church and hotel explosions that ripped through the island nation on the Easter day.

The Chinese Embassy has activated an emergency response mechanism immediately after the blasts, and embassy officials have visited the injured who were in hospital for treatment.

Curfew and ban on social media imposed

The government has imposed a nationwide curfew from 6 pm Sunday to 6 am local time on Monday.

The Sri Lankan government has also imposed a temporary ban on social media to prevent the spread of false information.

35 foreigners among the dead

Of the dead in the blasts, there are 35 foreigners, the police confirmed. Hospital sources had earlier said nine foreigners were among those killed while 13 others have been injured.

Airline says flights continue despite curfew

SriLankan Airlines is telling passengers booked on flights out of the country that they will be able to fly despite the curfew imposed.

The carrier says in a statement that travelers on all airlines operating out of Bandaranaike International Airport can access the airport by showing their tickets and passports at checkpoints.

The airline says security has been tightened at the airport, and it advises passengers to arrive four hours before their scheduled flights.

Rescue operations underway

Both Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe have condemned the attacks and appealed for calm.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said the tri-forces and the police are conducting a thorough probe into the explosions.

In a special statement, the police urged the public to stay indoors and not gather at the explosion sites which had been sealed off.

Meanwhile, massive rescue operations are underway at the explosion sites, the police said.

Television footage showed ambulances rushing the injured to the Colombo National Hospital, the Batticaloa Hospital in the east and the Negombo Hospital on the outskirts of the capital where the explosions took place.

There has been no claim of responsibility so far for the multiple blasts.

In just one church, St. Sebastian’s in Katuwapitiya, north of Colombo, more than 50 people had been killed, a police official told Reuters.

Media reported 25 people were also killed in an attack on a church in Batticaloa in Eastern Province.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe called a national security council meeting at his home for later in the day.

One of the explosions was at St Anthony’s Church in Kochcikade, Colombo.

St. Sebastian’s church posted pictures of destruction inside the church on its Facebook page, showing blood on pews and the floor, and requested help from the public.

Out of Sri Lanka’s total population of around 22 million, 70 percent are Buddhist, 12.6 percent Hindu, 9.7 percent Muslim, and 7.6 percent Christian, according to the country’s 2012 census.

(Reuters / Xinhua / AP / China Daily)

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