Easter Suicide Bombings Kill 290 at Sri Lankan Churches and Hotels

(UPDATED) Christians end Holy Week shaken by coordinated attacks at Sunday morning services and brunches on opposite coasts of the island nation.

The joy of Easter quickly turned into terror and grief for Christians in Sri Lanka this morning, where suicide bombers conducted coordinated attacks on three churches and three high-end hotels, killing more than 290 people and injuring almost 500.

Officials urged citizens to resist speculating whether Muslim extremists were to blame for the violence, which mostly took place in or around the capital city of Colombo. But police had been warned 10 days prior that churches may be targeted by a radical Islamist group, National Thowheeth Jama’ath, according to a security memo obtained by multiple media outlets and posted on Twitter by a government official.

Experts say if the bombings end up being religiously motivated, they represent the bloodiest sectarian attacks in decades in the island nation, located southeast of India, where civil war ended in 2009.

At Zion Church, rows of Easter lilies remained in front of the sanctuary as victims fled the blast, leaving behind hymnals, Bibles, and debris across the floor. More than 28 worshipers, including a dozen children, were killed and another 27 injured at Zion—according to its website, a charismatic church belonging to the Fellowship of Free Churches of Sri Lanka and located on the opposite side of the island in Batticaloa. A report in the Times of India described a pastor greeting the suicide bomber, an Easter visitor, just minutes before the blast.

“May the Dear Lord continue to comfort us all in this difficult time,” read a post on the church’s Facebook page, with a video message from its senior pastor, Roshan Mahesan.

Other attacks took place at two Catholic churches, St. Anthony’s Shrine in Kochchikade and St. Sebastian’s Church in Katana, …

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