edition.cnn.com-The calm of Easter Sunday was shattered by gruesome bombings that killed at least 290 people in Sri Lankan churches and hotels.Though it’s not clear who’s behind the eight explosions that forced the country of 21 million people to go on lockdown, they are “certainly acts of terror,” said Manisha Gunasekera, high commissioner of Sri Lanka to the UK.
An intelligence memo warning of a possible attack had circulated 10 days earlier, raising questions about whether more preventative measures could have been taken.
“Serious action need to be taken as to why this warning was ignored,” Sri Lanka’s Minister of Telecommunications, Harin Fernando, tweeted along with a photo of the memo. The document, titled “Information of an alleged plan attack,” is dated April 11 and signed by the Deputy Inspector General of Police, Priyalal Dissanayake.
The explosions blew out the tiled roofs of churches and hotel windows, killing worshippers and hotel guests in the process.
Images and footage showed bloodied pews, broken glass, and plumes of smoke.
“You can see pieces of flesh thrown all over the walls and on the sanctuary and even outside of the church,” Father Edmond Tillekeratne, social communications director for the Archdiocese of Colombo, told CNN from St. Sebastian’s Church, one of the explosion sites.
He estimated that more than a thousand people had come to the church for Easter Sunday “because it is a special day.” Many came from villages afar, he said.
“This is an attack against the whole of Sri Lanka because Sri Lanka is (a) multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multi-cultural country, and the whole country comes together in celebration of Easter Sunday,” Gunasekera said.
The violence punctured a decade of relative peace in the country following the end of its civil war in 2009 — where attacks were common during the 25-year struggle.
The first wave of attacks struck during busy Easter services at churches in the heart of the country’s minority Christian community — in the cities of Colombo, Negombo and Batticaloa.
More blasts ripped through three luxury hotels in the capital city of Colombo: the Shangri La, Cinnamon Grand and Kingsbury.
The Shangri-La in Colombo said the hotel’s Table One cafe was attacked just after 9 a.m local time. The hotel is popular with foreign tourists and the country’s business community.
Another blast rocked a hotel in front of the Dehiwala Zoo in Dehiwala-Mount Lavinia.
The final blast struck a private house in Mahawila Gardens, in Dematagoda, during a raid in connection with the attacks, officials said. Three police officers were killed.
“When crime division officials started questioning the people in the house, two explosions occurred,” police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekara said. “One sub inspector and two constables of police have been killed.”
Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe “expressed his gratitude” to the officers in a statement, according to state news agency Derena TV.
Wickremesinghe reiterated that “stern action will be taken against those responsible,” the news agency reported.
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