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(NEW YORK POST) — Sri Lankan authorities have arrested seven people over a series of devastating attacks that left at least 207 dead and 450 injured on Easter Sunday.
Near-simultaneous blasts hit three churches and three luxury hotels in the capital Colombo — the worst violence in the South Asian country since its civil war ended a decade ago.
A suicide bomber then struck when police raided a house in a northern suburb of the capital, killing at least three officers, an official speaking on the condition of anonymity told reporters.
Most of the earlier attacks — including another at a guesthouse — were also thought to be suicide bombings, the government said.
Sri Lanka’s defense minister announced that seven suspects had been arrested.
However, police hesitated over a possible motive, with no one yet claiming responsibility for the carnage.
“We cannot say who is behind the attacks and what their intentions were until the investigation is complete,” police spokesperson Ruwan Gunasekara said.
Worshippers and hotel guests were among the dead — with citizens of China, Portugal and the Netherlands also thought to be killed.
Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs Stef Blok confirmed at least one Dutch national was among the dead.
“The Netherlands has passed its heartfelt condolences to the Sri Lankan people. We stand with you,” he tweeted.
President Trump also offered support.
“The United States offers heartfelt condolences to the great people of Sri Lanka. We stand ready to help!” he tweeted Sunday morning.
Sri Lanka’s government temporarily blocked social media including Facebook and Instagram to stem ” false news reports” being spread.
The archbishop of Colombo also called for calm and urged Sri Lankans not to “take the law into their own hands.”
St. Anthony’s Shrine and the three hotels where the blasts took place are in Colombo, and are frequented by foreign tourists.
Local TV showed damage at the Cinnamon Grand, Shangri-La and Kingsbury hotels.
The Shangri-La’s second-floor restaurant was gutted in the blast, with the ceiling and windows blown out. Loose wires hung and tables were overturned in the blackened space.
A police magistrate was at the hotel to inspect the bodies recovered from the restaurant. From outside the police cordon, three bodies could be seen covered in white sheets.
Alex Agieleson, who was near the shrine, said buildings shook with the blast, and that a number of injured people were carried away in ambulances.
Other blasts were reported at St. Sebastian’s Church in Negombo, a majority Catholic town north of Colombo, and at Zion Church in the eastern town of Batticaloa.
The explosion ripped off the roof and knocked out doors and windows at St. Sebastian’s, where people carried the wounded away from blood-stained pews, TV footage showed.
The magnitude of the bloodshed recalled Sri Lanka’s decades-long civil war, when separatist Tamil Tigers and other rebel groups targeted the Central Bank, a shopping mall, a Buddhist temple and popular tourist hotels.
“After so many years we’ve started again,” said Gamini Francis, a longtime hotel worker. “It’s tragic. Crazy people killing innocent people.”
With Post wires
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