“The clock hands on the steeple of St. Anthony’s Shrine were stuck at 8:45 a.m., the exact moment when the first suicide bomber’s explosion ripped through the wooden pews as Easter Sunday worshipers were praying,” Dharisha Bastians, Jeffrey Gettleman, and Kai Schultz report for The New York Times. “Within a few hours on Sunday, suicide bombings hit three Catholic churches and three upscale hotels in the Indian Ocean island nation of Sri Lanka, still recovering from a quarter-century civil war in which the suicide bomb was pioneered.”

“The death toll in the attacks rose to 290, with about 500 people wounded, a police spokesman, Ruwan Gunasekera, said, although he would not give a breakdown of where the fatalities occurred,” Bastians, Gettleman, and Schultz report. “By day’s end, the police said at least 13 people had been arrested in connection with the attacks in the capital, Colombo, and the cities of Negombo and Batticaloa. Seven of them were seized at a hide-out after one suspect blew himself up, killing three officers.”

“At least 36 of the victims were believed to be foreigners, including several Americans,” Bastians, Gettleman, and Schultz report. “The bombings were the deadliest attack on Christians in South Asia in recent memory and punctuated a rising trend of religious-based violence in the region.

The St. Anthony’s Shrine blast left a scene of broken bodies, billowing black smoke and splintered wood. ‘It was a river of blood,’ said N. A. Sumanapala, a shopkeeper near the church who said he had run inside to help. ‘I saw limbs and heads. There were children, too,'” Bastians, Gettleman, and Schultz report. “Pope Francis, after celebrating Mass in St. Peter’s Square, said the attacks had ‘brought mourning and sorrow’ on the most important of Christian holidays. Other world leaders also expressed shock.”

“About 6 percent of the population is Catholic, according to government figures. The country has struggled with sectarian divisions, including last year, when the government temporarily shut down Facebook and WhatsApp in an effort to curb anti-Muslim violence,” Bastians, Gettleman, and Schultz report.

World leaders responded with pledges to help and with condemnation:

Apple CEO Tim Cook joined world leaders in responding to the attacks:

Read more in the full article here.

In a follow-up report, The New York Times reports, “The government on Monday blamed National Thowheeth Jama’ath, a little-known radical Islamist organization, for the bombings. An official said the group, which had not carried out any serious attacks before, had help from ‘an international network.'”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Our condolences to the many thousands – those killed, injured, and their framily and friends – affected by this horrific, evil act.

The Associated Press reports:

Sri Lankan authorities have blocked most social media services in the country following attacks that killed more than 200 people on Easter Sunday.

The NetBlocks observatory says it detected an intentional nationwide blackout of popular services including Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp and Instagram.

Sri Lankan officials said Sunday they are temporarily blocking social media to curtail the spread of false information and ease tensions until their investigation is concluded.

Read more in the full article here.

SEE ALSO:
Wall Street Journal: Bomb Attacks Hit Sri Lanka’s Minority Catholic Population – April 21, 2019
Apple CEO Tim Cook advocates privacy, says terrorists should be ‘eliminated’ – February 27, 2015