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Security personnel stand guard outside St. Anthony’s Shrine in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on April 22, 2019, a day after the church was hit in series of bomb blasts.
Security personnel stand guard outside St. Anthony’s Shrine in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on April 22, 2019, a day after the church was hit in series of bomb blasts.
Mohd Rasfan/AFP/Getty Images

Sri Lanka’s Easter Sunday bombings, in 22 pictures

The horrendous attack left hundreds of people dead and many more injured.

On Easter Sunday, one of the holiest of Christian holidays, a series of coordinated suicide bomb attacks targeting churches and hotels swept across the island nation of Sri Lanka.

By the time the smoke cleared, more than 300 people had died, and hundreds more had been injured.

The vast majority of the victims were Sri Lankan, but citizens of eight other countries, including the US, were reportedly killed in the attacks as well.

Authorities have blamed an Islamist militant group called National Thowheeth Jama’ath for the devastating explosions and are holding 24 people in custody. The Sri Lankan government believes that the group had help from an international terrorist organization in carrying out the attacks.

The bombings come after a decade of relative calm in Sri Lanka — though it’s been rocked by ethnic tensions and fighting in the past.

The Sinhalese ethnic group, who are mainly Buddhist, make up the majority of Sri Lanka’s population, while the Tamil ethnic group, who are mostly Hindu but also include Christians and Muslims, are a minority. Tamils have been historically marginalized and disenfranchised, and after the country (which was known as Ceylon at that time) gained independence from the British in 1948, tensions between the Sinhalese majority and Tamil minority increased.

Beginning in the 1980s, a separatist group called the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, or Tamil Tigers, fought a civil war with the Sri Lankan government. The decades-long conflict scarred the country, and left as many as 100,000 people dead. (The country also was hit hard by an Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004, which decimated much of Sri Lanka’s coastal infrastructure.)

After the civil war ended in 2009, though, a relative calm ensued. Sri Lanka is known for its lush jungles, tea plantations, Buddhist temples, and beaches, and is a popular tourism destination. Lately, though, Sinhalese Buddhist nationalism has been on the rise; last year Buddhist mobs violently attacked Muslims and Muslim-owned businesses on the island.

The scale of Sunday’s attack targeting Christians, who make up roughly 7 percent of the country’s population, was completely unprecedented, though. It appears the government had advance notice of terrorist threats to churches, but political squabbling among fractious politicians led to the squandering of this intelligence.

Sri Lankan officials inspect St. Sebastian’s Church in Negombo, north of Colombo. Easter is one of Christianity’s holiest days, and many Sri Lankan Christians were worshipping at church when the attacks took place.
Sri Lankan officials inspect St. Sebastian’s Church in Negombo, north of Colombo. Easter is one of Christianity’s holiest days, and many Sri Lankan Christians were worshipping at church when the attacks took place.
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Sri Lankan security forces secure the area around St. Anthony’s Shrine after the explosion. A church 20 miles to the north, St. Sebastian’s Church in Negombo, was attacked as well. Zion Church, in the eastern city of Battica, was targeted as well.
Sri Lankan security forces secure the area around St. Anthony’s Shrine after the explosion. A church 20 miles to the north, St. Sebastian’s Church in Negombo, was attacked as well. Zion Church, in the eastern city of Battica, was targeted as well.
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Security personnel inspect the interior of St Sebastian’s Church. The bombings occurred in at least five other locations, including three Colombo hotels: the Cinnamon Grand, the Shangri-La Hotel, and the Kingsbury Hotel.
Security personnel inspect the interior of St. Sebastian’s Church. The bombings occurred in at least five other locations, including three Colombo hotels: the Cinnamon Grand, the Shangri-La Hotel, and the Kingsbury Hotel.
Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images
Bodies of victims killed in the bomb explosion are laid out in front of St. Anthony’s Church to be identified by family members. Nearly 300 people have died, and hundreds more have been injured.
Bodies of victims killed in the bomb explosion are laid out in front of St. Anthony’s Church to be identified by family members. Nearly 300 people have died, and hundreds more have been injured.
NurPhoto via Getty Images
A man mourns after viewing the body of a family member that was killed in the bomb explosion.
A man mourns after viewing the body of a family member that was killed in the bomb explosion.
NurPhoto via Getty Images
People stand in line to try and identify deceased victims which were laid out in front of St. Anthony’s Church.
People stand in line to try and identify deceased victims which were laid out in front of St. Anthony’s Church.
NurPhoto via Getty Images
A Sri Lankan relative of a bomb blast victim weeps at a morgue in Colombo.
A Sri Lankan relative of a bomb blast victim weeps at a morgue in Colombo.
Lakruwan Wanniarachchi/AFP/Getty Images
A Sri Lankan Catholic man holds a photograph of his sister while waiting to identify her dead body in front of St. Anthony’s Church.
A Sri Lankan man holds a photograph of his sister while waiting to identify her dead body in front of St. Anthony’s Church.
NurPhoto via Getty Images
Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe (second from right) arrives to visit the site of a bomb attack at St. Anthony’s Shrine.  Wickremasinghe released a statement on Sunday condemning the “cowardly attacks on our people” and asked “all Sri L
Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe (second from right) arrives to visit the site of a bomb attack at St. Anthony’s Shrine. Wickremasinghe released a statement on Sunday condemning the “cowardly attacks on our people” and asked “all Sri Lankans during this tragic time to remain united and strong.”
Ishara S. Kodikara/AFP/Getty Images
Sri Lankan security personnel inspect the debris of a car after it exploded near St. Anthony’s Church.
Sri Lankan security personnel inspect the debris of a car after it exploded near St. Anthony’s Church.
Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images
Security forces inspect the scene after a blast targeting The Kingsbury hotel in Colombo. According to Sri Lanka’s tourism minister, nearly 40 foreigners have been killed,
Security forces inspect the scene after a blast targeting the Kingsbury Hotel in Colombo. According to Sri Lanka’s tourism minister, nearly 40 foreigners have been killed.
Chamila Karunarathne/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
Security forces inspect the scene after a blast targeting Cinnamon Grand hotel in Colombo. Officials believe the attacks were conducted by people wearing suicide bombs.
Security forces inspect the scene after a blast targeting Cinnamon Grand hotel in Colombo. Officials believe the attacks were conducted by people wearing suicide bombs.
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Sri Lankan Special Task Force (STF) personnel are pictured outside a house during a raid in the Orugodawatta area of Colombo.
Sri Lankan Special Task Force (STF) personnel are pictured outside a house during a raid in the Orugodawatta area of Colombo.
Ishara S. Kodikara/AFP/Getty Images
Security forces inspect the St. Anthony’s Church.
Security forces inspect St. Anthony’s Church.
Chamila Karunarathne/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
Sri Lankan security personnel and police investigators look through debris outside Zion Church in Batticaloa, a city in the eastern province of Sri Lanka.
Sri Lankan security personnel and police investigators look through debris outside Zion Church in Batticaloa, a city in the eastern province of Sri Lanka.
Lakruwan Wanniarachchi/AFP/Getty Images
Bodies are carried away for identification in front of the St Anthony’s Church. President Trump joined international leaders in offering his sympathy to Sri Lanka, saying: “The United States offers heartfelt condolences to the great people of Sri Lanka. W
Bodies are carried away for identification in front of St. Anthony’s Church. President Trump joined international leaders in offering his sympathy to Sri Lanka, saying: “The United States offers heartfelt condolences to the great people of Sri Lanka. We stand ready to help!”
NurPhoto via Getty Images
A view of blast site near the Dehiwala zoo, near Colombo.
A view of a blast site near the Dehiwala Zoo, near Colombo.
NurPhoto via Getty Images
Sri Lankan military officers stand guard in front of St Anthony’s Church.
Sri Lankan military officers stand guard in front of St. Anthony’s Church.
NurPhoto via Getty Images
Pope Francis leads the Easter Mass in St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City, Vatican. He referred to the attacks as acts of cruel violence. “I entrust to the Lord all those who have tragically perished,” he said, “And I pray for the injured and all thos
Pope Francis leads the Easter Mass in St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City. He referred to the attacks as acts of cruel violence. “I entrust to the Lord all those who have tragically perished,” he said, “and I pray for the injured and all those who suffer as a result of this tragic event.”
Alessandra Benedetti/Corbis via Getty Images
Pakistani Christians and Muslims hold candles at a tribute to Sri Lankan bomb blast victims at the Sacred Heart Cathedral Church in Lahore, Pakistan, on April 22, 2019.
Pakistani Christians and Muslims hold candles at a tribute to Sri Lankan bomb blast victims at the Sacred Heart Cathedral Church in Lahore, Pakistan, on April 22, 2019.
Arif Ali/AFP/Getty Images
Indonesian Muslim students show their solidarity to the victims of the Sri Lankan blasts, in Surabaya, Indonesia, on April 22, 2019.
Indonesian Muslim students show their solidarity with the victims of the Sri Lankan blasts in Surabaya, Indonesia, on April 22, 2019.
Juni Kriswanto/AFP/Getty Images
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