Sri Lanka attacks: Death toll soars to 290, with around 500 more wounded, police say

Andrew Buncombe, Adam Withnall
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Sri Lanka attacks: Death toll soars to 290, with around 500 more wounded, police say

The death toll in Sri Lanka has soared to 290 fatalities, with at least 500 more people injured, police have revealed.

As officials lifted a curfew one day after a series of bomb attacks that targeted churches and luxury hotels in the capitol, Colombo, police spokesperson Ruwan Gunasekera told reporters the death toll had risen from around 200 to 290.

The police official did not provide a breakdown of those killed and wounded at each of the three churches and four hotels hit on Sunday, though authorities have said a number of foreign citizens were among the dead and wounded.

Police said a total of 24 people had been arrested as part of the probe into the deadliest violence to hit the island for two decades, and certainly the worst since the end of a bloody civil war between Tamil militants and the government, ended in 2009.

Reuters said Sri Lanka’s president, Maithripala Sirisena, who was abroad when the attacks happened, had called a meeting of the national security council for early on Monday. Prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe would attend the meeting, a source told the news agency.

As the nation struggles to respond to the attacks, there has still been no claim of responsibility. While ethnic violence marked a large part of the decades long civil war between the government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), and Buddhist temples were sometimes targeted by the Tamils, churches have largely escaped the violence.

The news agency said there were fears the attacks could spark a renewal of communal violence, with police reporting late on Sunday evening there had been a petrol bomb attack on a mosque in the northwest and arson attacks on two shops owned by Muslims in the west.

The South Asian nation of about 22m people has Christian, Muslim and Hindu populations of between about 8 and 12 per cent.

The island-wide curfew imposed by the government was lifted early on Monday, although there was little traffic in the normally bustling capital, reports said.

Soldiers armed with automatic weapons stood guard outside major hotels and the World Trade Centre in the business district, where the four hotels were targeted on Easter Sunday.

Scores of people who were stranded overnight at the main airport began making their way home as restrictions were lifted.