• Death toll in Sri Lanka bomb attacks rises to 290, wounded now almost 500

    Death toll in Sri Lanka bomb attacks rises to 290, wounded now almost 500 people File Photo Death toll in Sri Lanka bomb attacks rises to 290, wounded now almost 500 people

    At least 290 are now known to have died in a series of bomb blasts that tore through churches and luxury hotels in Sri Lanka, in the worst violence to hit the island since its devastating civil war ended a decade ago.

    Eight apparently co-ordinated explosions targeted Easter worshippers and high end hotels popular with international guests.

    The horrific death toll, which has risen dramatically overnight, was given on Monday morning by a police spokesman, who said a further 500 people had been wounded.

    The news came hours after it was revealed that an improvised bomb discovered at the main airport in Colombo had been defused.

    A nationwide curfew imposed shortly after the blasts was lifted early Monday, with AFP journalists reporting a steady stream of people and tuk tuks on the streets of Negombo.

    There was still a heavy security presence at the city's St Sebastien's Church, the scene of one of the devastating blasts.

    At least 500 were reported to be wounded in the attacks, including four Pakistani nationals.

    Sri Lanka's small Christian minority -- just six percent of the 21 million-strong population -- has been targeted by violence in the past, but never to such brutal effect.

    There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but police said Monday 24 people had been arrested. The government earlier said investigators would look into whether the attackers had "overseas links".

    The powerful blasts -– six in quick succession and then two more hours later -- wounded around 450 people.

    At least two of the explosions involved suicide bombers, including one who lined up at a hotel breakfast buffet before unleashing carnage.

    The government said the dead included three Indians, three Britons, two from Turkey and one Portuguese national. Two people holding both British and US passports were also among the fatalities.

    "Additionally, while nine foreign nationals are reported missing, there are 25 unidentified bodies believed to be of foreigners," the foreign ministry said.

    Japan's foreign ministry said one of its nationals was among those who died.

    The churches targeted included the historic St Anthony's Shrine in Colombo, where the blast blew out much of the roof.

    Bodies lay on the floor of the church, covered in patterned scarves and white sheets, some of them stained with blood.

    Shattered roof tiles and shards of glass littered the floor, along with chunks of plaster blasted from the walls by the explosion.

     

     

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