On the morning of Easter Sunday, as worshipers gathered for mass, a series of bombs exploded in three churches in Sri Lanka. The bombings, which are the deadliest attack on South Asian Christians in recent years, began at 8:45AM. Bombs exploded at St Anthony’s Shrine, in Colombo; Zion Church, in Batticaloa, and St Sebastian’s Church, in Negombo. At about the same time, another series of bombs struck five-star hotels popular with tourists in the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo. The Shangri La Hotel, Cinnamon Grand and Kingsbury Hotel, all in the capital city of Colombo, were struck by bombs. Police say the attacks on the churches and hotels were coordinated and were planned by the same group.
At least 207 people have been confirmed dead after the blasts, including at least 30 foreigners, with hundreds more injured. So far, no group has come forward to claim credit for the attacks, although the Sri Lankan authorities have arrested a number of suspects. The country’s state defense minister, Ruwan Wijewardene, says suicide bombers were behind the attacks. The country has imposed a nation-wide curfew and has cut off social media. Here’s what you need to know about the Shangri La Hotel and other locations targeted in the deadly attacks:
1. A Bomb Ripped Through the Hotel’s Cafe at 9AM on Easter Sunday
Management at the Shangri La hotel in Colombo said that a bomb went off in the hotel’s Table One cafe just past 9AM local time. The hotel is popular with foreign tourists and with the local elite, and hotel guests would presumably have been sitting down to breakfast at the time when the bomb went off in the cafe.
Sri Lankan authorities say that the bomb blasts in the country were coordinated and planned by a single group. At least 207 people were killed in the explosions, with at least 30 foreigners dead from the attack. Three churches and three luxury hotels were targeted in the Easter morning attacks. A few hours later, bombs also went off at a small hotel near Dehiwala Zoo in Dehiwala-Mount Lavinia and in a private house in Mahawila Gardens, Dematagoda.
2. The Shangri La Is a High-Rise Luxury Hotel Which Billed Itself as a ‘Tropical Sanctuary’ & Was a Favorite Spot for High-End Weddings
The Shangri La hotel, in Colombo, is owned by the Shangri La Hotel Group, a global chain of luxury hotels with hotels in Bangkok, Istanbul, Paris, and Singapore, among other locations. The Shangri La in Colombo a luxury hotel which attracts international tourists and hosts events for wealthy Sri Lankans. The hotel describes itself as a “personal tropical sanctuary” and claims to offer “the finest accommodation in Colombo.” The hotel features a gym and a spa which offers “traditional Sri Lankan and other Asian treatments and therapies .”
The hotel also hosts high-end weddings in its two ballrooms and in its meeting rooms and lawn. You can see photos of the hotel — as it was before the bombs struck on Easter morning — here. You can see video of the damage done to the hotel in the Easter attacks here.
3. The Morning’s Deadliest Attack Took Place at St Sebastian’s Church in the Catholic Enclave of Negombo
The bomb blasts began at 8:45 on Sunday morning, as Christians gathered for mass on Easter morning. News reports said the deadliest blast took place at St Sebastian’s Church in Negombo. A post to the church’s Facebook page includes photos of rubble and destruction following the blast; the caption reads, “A bomb acttack to our church pleas come and help if your family members are there.”
St Sebastian’s Church is located in the heart of “Little Rome,” as the city of Negombo is often called. Negombo, a city north of the capitol of Sri Lanka, has a large population of Roman Catholics, and a number of Catholic churches. A number of the city’s Catholic churches date back to the 19th century, when there was a large presence of Portuguese traders in the area. You can see photos of St Sebastian’s church before the bomb went off here and here.
4. St Anthony’s Shrine Is a National Shrine & a Monument to the Persecution Faced by Catholics in Sri Lanka
St. Anthony’s Kochchikade, where a bomb exploded on the morning of Easter Sunday, is one of the best-known Catholic churches in Sri Lanka. The church was declared as a national shrine and is widely seen as a symbol of the persecution that Sri Lankan Catholics faced under Dutch rule. According to legend, a priest named Fr Antonio had been assigned to minister to the religious needs of the country’s Catholics. Dutch authorities threatened to arrest him, and he ran away to the seashore, where he met a group of fishermen who hid him from the Dutch. The fishermen were suffering because the sea was beginning to rise and erode t heir village. When Fr Antonio prayed, the sea receded, and the village was saved. According to legend, the Dutch learned about this miracle and granted Fr Antonio land to build a church. He is buried inside of the current shrine.
St Anthony’s was one of many locations rocked by bomb blasts on the morning of Easter Sunday in Sri Lanka. Three churches and three luxury hotels were hit by explosions. At least 207 people have been killed in the attacks. The Sri Lankan authorities say the attacks were coordinated and carried out by one group. Seven people have been arrested so far.
5. Zion Church, a Protestant Church in the East of the Country, Was Also Targeted in the Easter Sunday Attacks
Zion Church, an evangelical church in the eastern province city of Batticaloa, was also rocked by a bomb blast on the morning of Easter Sunday. The church is part of the fellowship of free churches of Sri Lanka and was founded in 1974 as a branch of the Lighthouse Church of Kandy. Zion Church’s mission is, according to its Facebook page, “To Worship the Lord in Spirit & in Truth, Preaching of the Word & taking the Gospel message to unreached areas in Batticaloa.”