At least 207 individuals were killed and hundreds more were injured Sunday in Sri Lanka at what appears to have been a coordinated series of suicide bombings targeting Christian churches and luxury hotels, ABC News reports.
The explosions were miles apart, with targets identified as three Christian churches holding Easter services and three hotels, some known to be frequented by tourists from the West. Officials have estimated that in addition to the deaths counted so far, at least 450 were wounded in the coordinated acts of terror.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo confirmed several U.S. citizens were among those killed.
Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary, said in the statement that “the United States condemns in the strongest terms the outrageous terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka that have claimed so many precious lives on this Easter Sunday.”
“Our heartfelt condolences go out to the families of the more than 200 killed and hundreds of others wounded,” Sanders continued. “We stand with the Sri Lankan government and people as they bring to justice the perpetrators of these despicable and senseless acts.”
The coordinated wave of bombings came 10 days after the Sri Lanka police chief issued a nationwide alert that suicide bombers intended to attack “prominent churches,” according to reports.
Harin Fernando, a member of parliament in Sri Lanka, confirmed that intelligence officials were aware of the threat and committed to getting to the bottom of why the warning was apparently not aggressively acted upon.
Eight blasts across Sri Lanka have killed at least 207 people and injured hundreds of others, prompting the government to impose a nationwide curfew and block social media https://t.co/JiV0FVevhn pic.twitter.com/kySWVmFAnC— CNN International (@cnni) April 22, 2019
Sri Lanka has faced sporadic violence since the end of a civil war in 2009. In the past, members of the majority Buddhist Sinhala community attacked mosques and other Muslim-owned properties.
There has since, however, been concern that Islamic State fighters returning from the Middle East could pose a new threat in the country.
No terrorist group has yet taken responsibility for the bombings. However, a police spokesman said at a news conference that several arrests have been made, lending credence to an Associated Press report that claimed seven suspects had been taken into custody.
Security was heightened Sunday in the United States in response to the attacks, with a U.S. intelligence bulletin having been previously issued last week raising concerns by law enforcement around high-profile holidays or gatherings, specifically Easter, Passover, and Ramadan. The bulletin said there was no evidence of a confirmed attack planned in the United States or U.S. facilities elsewhere.
“Religious holiday gatherings are an attractive target for HVEs [homegrown violent extremists] and domestic extremists because they offer an opportunity to capitalize on large crowds and increased symbolism of the target,” the bulletin explained.