As Christians around the world were flocking to churches for Easter services Sunday, Sri Lanka was already in mourning. A string of deadly, coordinated explosions early Sunday, which tore through churches and luxury hotels in Colombo and across the island nation, killed over 321 people, including some 38 foreigners, and injured around 500 others. Seven of the eight attacks were suicide bombings. A ninth explosion was prevented late Sunday when security personnel defused an improvised explosive device on the road to Colombo International Airport.
Among the churches attacked on Sunday morning was the 18th-century St. Anthony’s Shrine in Colombo, St. Sebastian’s Church at Negombo, and the Zion Church in Batticaloa in the island’s Eastern Province. The targeted hotels included the Cinnamon Grand, the Shangri-La and the Kingsbury—all in Colombo, with clientele who are largely Western tourists and businessmen. Later on Sunday, a bomb went off at a hotel near the National Zoo in Colombo and a suspected safe house on the outskirts of the capital.
The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attacks, through a statement issued Tuesday by its official media arm, the Amaq news agency. Sri Lanka’s defense minister, Ruwan Wijewardene, previously told the Sri Lankan Parliament that Sunday’s serial suicide bombings were “in retaliation for the New Zealand mosque attack” in Christchurch last month.