WARNING - GRAPHIC CONTENT: Scores of people have died in Sri Lanka after six bombs detonated near simultaneously at three churches and three luxury hotels popular with tourists, authorities say.
At least 138 people have been killed and 400 more injured in the Easter Sunday bombings about 8.45am (local time), hospital and police officials have said.
The strikes came as worshippers were attending Easter Sunday services at Catholic churches. The first explosion reportedly struck at a church in Colombo, followed by simultaneous blasts within half an hour, according to Al Jazeera.
In just one church, St Sebastian's in Katuwapitiya, north of Colombo, more than 50 people had been killed, a police official told Reuters, with pictures showing bodies on the ground, blood on the pews and a destroyed roof.
Media reported 25 people were also killed in an attack on a church in Batticaloa in Eastern Province.
The injured also included foreigners staying at the three five-star hotels - the Cinnamon Grand, Kingsbury and the Shangri-La, located in the heart of Colombo.
It was unclear whether there were any casualties in the hotels, however, nine foreigners were among the dead, the officials said.
A spokesman for the Cinnamon Grand Hotel near the prime minister's official residence in Colombo, told AFP that the blast had ripped through the hotel restaurant.
He said at least one person had been killed in the blast.
Images of aftermath
St Sebastian's Church in Negombo, a Catholic majority town, posted pictures of destruction inside the church on its Facebook page, showing blood on pews and the floor, and requested help from the public.
"A bomb attack to our church, please come and help if your family members are there," read a post in English on the Facebook page of the St Sebastian's Church.
Photos circulating on social media showed the roof of one church had been almost blown off in the blast.
The floor was littered with a mixture of roof tiles, splintered wood and blood.
Police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera said that the injured were being evacuated while security forces have cordoned off the areas and search operations are underway.
There were no immediate claims of responsibility.
A security official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to reporters says that six near simultaneous explosions hit three churches and three hotels frequented by foreign tourists.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe called a national security council meeting at his home for later in the day.
"I strongly condemn the cowardly attacks on our people today. I call upon all Sri Lankans during this tragic time to remain united and strong," he said in a Tweet.
"Please avoid propagating unverified reports and speculation. The government is taking immediate steps to contain this situation."
Alex Agieleson, who was near the shrine, said buildings shook with the blast, and that a number of injured people were carried away in ambulances.
‘Murder, mayhem and anarchy’
President Maithripala Sirisena in an address said he was shocked by the explosions and appealed for calm.
Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera, writing on his verified Twitter account, said the attacks had killed "many innocent people" and appeared to be a "well-coordinated attempt to create murder, mayhem & anarchy."
Sri Lanka's Minister of Economic Reforms and Public Distribution Harsha de Silva confirmed an emergency meeting had been called.
He said he had been to two of the attacked hotels and was at the scene at St Anthony's Shrine and described "horrible scenes."
"I saw many body parts strewn all over," he tweeted, adding that there were "many casualties including foreigners."
"Please stay calm and indoors," he added.
Devastating news out of Sri Lanka. Innocent people killed and injured while at prayer. Our solidarity and sympathy to all those who mourn, all those in pain.— Bill Shorten (@billshortenmp) April 21, 2019
We think also of Australia’s beloved Sri Lankan community who will carry an immense sense of shock and sadness today.
Australian Labor leader Bill Shorten tweeted the news of the attacks was “devastating”.
“Our solidarity and sympathy to all those who mourn, all those in pain,” Mr Shorten tweeted.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is now making urgent enquiries with local authorities to determine the welfare of any Australians affected, a DFAT spokeswoman said in a statement to Yahoo News Australia on Sunday.
The spokeswoman said anyone concerned about friends and family in Sri Lanka should contact their loved ones directly and, if that fails, contact DFAT on 1300 555 135 (within Australia) or +61 2 6261 3305 (from overseas).
With AAP, Reuters, Associated Press and AFP
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