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How the Sri Lanka attacks unfolded

April 21, 2019

Hundreds of people have been killed in coordinated attacks in Sri Lanka, with many hundreds more injured. Here's what happened, as it happened.

Sri Lankan security personnel and investigators look through debris outside Zion Church.
Image: AFP/L. Wanniarachchi

Religious extremists carried out a series of devastating suicide attacks in Sri Lanka on Sunday.

This is how the attacks unfolded.

Simultaneous blasts

Early Sunday morning, six almost simultaneous blasts hit three five-star hotels frequented by foreign guests and three churches celebrating Easter.

Two additional blasts occurred in the afternoon, one at a guesthouse outside Colombo and one at a house on the outskirts of Colombo.

Cinnamon Grand Colombo Hotel

At about 8:50 a.m. local time (0300 UTC), a suicide bomber detonated his explosives at the breakfast buffet of the Cinnamon Grand Colombo hotel. The 483-room hotel is in the bustling business district of Colombo, near the sea and the prime minister's official residence.

A hotel manager said the attacker was about to be served food in the Taprobane restaurant, which was packed with Easter guests, when his payload exploded.

"There was utter chaos," the manager said.

The attacker had checked in the night before.

About 20 people were seriously wounded and sent to the National Hospital, while others were killed.

Read more: Easter Sunday blasts belie Sri Lanka's calm facade

Security forces inspect the scene after a blast targeting the Shangri-La Hotel in Colombo
The second-level restaurant of the Shangri-La Hotel was attacked at 9:05 a.m.Image: picture-alliance/AA/C. Karunarathne

Shangri-La Hotel

At 8:45 a.m., two loud blasts were heard at the Shangri-La Hotel, a towering 500-room hotel near Colombo's main business district.

The hotel said its Table One restaurant was hit.

"We are deeply saddened and shocked by the incident and our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the casualties and those who have been affected," it said.

Photos showed heavy damage to the second-floor restaurant, with windows blown out and electrical wires hanging from the ceiling.

A general view of the Kingsbury Hotel targeted earlier in the day by a blast in Colombo
The Kingsbury Hotel was hit by at least one explosionImage: AFP/I. S. Kodikara

Kingsbury Hotel

At about 8:45 a.m., at least one explosion hit the Kingsbury Hotel.

The 229-room hotel near Colombo's World Trade Center is one of the city's most expensive.

The hotel said in a statement: "On behalf of the entire Kingsbury team we share in the shock, grief and mourning of our entire nation in the aftermath of the recent attack."

"Medical evacuation and treatment of the injured guests and employees were handled immediately."

Sri Lankan security personnel walk amid blast debris at St Anthony's Shrine
Worshippers were killed during an Easter service at St Anthony's ShrineImage: AFP/I. S. Kodikara

St Anthony's Shrine

Also at 8:45 a.m., an explosion hit St Anthony's Shrine, a historic Roman Catholic Church in Kochcikade, Colombo. The blast destroyed much of the roof and left the floor strewn with bodies.

Worshippers were celebrating mass at the time.

The tourist landmark is one of the country's best-known churches, with roots reaching back to the 18th century.

Crime scene officers inspect the site of a bomb blast inside a church in Negombo, Sri Lanka
Dozens of people were killed inside St. Sebastian's ChurchImage: Reuters/Stringer

St Sebastian's Church

At the same time, dozens of people were killed in an explosion during a service at St. Sebastian's Catholic church in Katuwapitiya, north of Colombo.

Photographs showed bodies on the ground, blood-stained church pews and a destroyed roof. The church called on relatives to come and help those injured.

Sri Lankan security personnel and police investigators look through debris outside Zion Church following an explosion in Batticaloa
Zion Church was the third church attacked on SundayImage: AFP/L. Wanniarachchi

Zion church

At 9:05 a.m. in the coastal city of Batticaloa, the protestant Zion Church was attacked at roughly the same time, also during a service.

Local media reported 25 people were killed in the attack.

Tropical Inn

After several hours with no blasts, the Tropical Inn guesthouse in Dehiwala, about 12 kilometers south of the capital, was hit by an explosion at about 1:45 p.m.

A witness told local TV he saw some body parts, including a severed head, lying on the ground beside the guesthouse.

At least two people died in the incident.

Sri Lankan Special Task Force (STF) personnel gesture outside a house during a raid
Three officers were killed raiding a suspected safe house on the outskirts of ColomboImage: AFP/

House explosion

At 2:15 p.m., there were two more explosions at a house in Dematagoda on the outskirts of Colombo during a police raid.

At least three officers died in the blast at the suspected safe house. Seven people were arrested.

aw/rc (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)

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