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207 CONFIRMED DEAD AND 450 HURT AT SRI LANKA ATTACK

BLAST DAMAGED SRI LANKA.jpg

At least 207 people have been killed and 450 hurt in explosions at churches and hotels in Sri Lanka, police say.

Eight blasts were reported, including at three churches in Negombo, Batticaloa and Colombo’s Kochchikade district during Easter services.

The first reports of explosions came at about 08:45 (03:15 GMT) local time – with six blasts reported close together at churches and luxury hotels. St Sebastian’s church in Negombo was severely damaged in one explosion, with dozens killed at the site.

Images from inside showed blood on the pews and the building’s ceiling shattered.

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There were also heavy casualties at the site of the first blast in St Anthony’s, a hugely popular shrine in Kochchikade, a district of Colombo.

Robert Tyler, who has lived in Sri Lanka for six years, told the BBC that at least two of the hotels appeared to have had their restaurants targeted at a busy time for breakfast.

Two further explosions were reported as police tried to find those involve. One blast hit near the zoo in Dehiwala, southern Colombo, and an eighth was reported near the Colombo district of Dematagoda.

Media say it was suicide bomber and that three people, believed to be security personnel, were killed during a police raid.

Security has since been stepped up at the country’s main Bandaranaike International Airport.

The Shangri-La, Kingsbury and Cinnamon Grand luxury hotels, all in the capital, were also targeted.

A curfew in Colombo was put in place “until further notice” and social media networks have been temporarily blocked.

It remains unclear who carried out the attacks.

A foreign ministry official has said at least 27 foreign nationals are among the dead.

The prime minister has confirmed that eight people have so far been arrested.

He has said there may have been prior intelligence about the attacks.

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