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Sri Lanka blasts: Narendra Modi terms explosions barbaric; Sushma Swaraj says 'closely monitoring' situation in Colombo

Prime Minister Narendra Modi condemned the multiple explosions that rocked Sri Lanka on Sunday, saying there's no place for such "barbarism" in the Indian Ocean Region.

"Strongly condemn the horrific blasts in Sri Lanka. There is no place for such barbarism in our region. India stands in solidarity with the people of Sri Lanka. My thoughts are with the bereaved families and prayers with the injured," the prime minister tweeted.

Modi spoke with Sri Lankan president Maithripala Sirisena​ and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe over the phone after serial blasts hit island nation on Sunday morning, killing 207 people.

So far, eight blasts have been reported in Sri Lanka targeting hotels and churches. The first six blasts occurred were reported from two churches in Kochchikade and Batticaloa, and three five-star hotels and one church in Colombo on Sunday morning as worshippers attended Easter service. The other two blasts were reported in Dehiwala and Orugodawatta areas in Colombo.

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said India was keeping a "close watch" on the situation, urging Indians in Sri Lanka to leave the country.

Further the High Commission of India in Colombo, Sri Lanka shared the contact details on Twitter for Indian citizens in need of assistance and for seeking clarification about the explosions in Colombo, the town of Negombo, outside the capital and in Batticalao, in the east of the country.

Meanwhile, the Archbishop of Colombo has demanded strict punishment for those responsible for the Easter Sunday blasts in Sri Lanka.

Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith called on Sri Lanka's government to launch a “very impartial strong inquiry” and to punish those found responsible “mercilessly because only animals can behave like that".

Explosions were reported at St Anthony's Church in Kochchikade, Colmbo and St Sebastian's Church in Katuwapitiya, Katana in Negombo. Police said another explosion was reported at a church in Batticaloa. Blasts were also reported from three high-end hotels in the natioanl capital — the Shangri-La, Cinnamon Grand and Kingsbury in Colombo.

The nature of the blasts was not immediately clear and there were no immediate claims of responsibility, CNN-News18 reported.

President Maithripala Sirisena in an address said he was shocked by the explosions and appealed for calm.

Sri Lanka's Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe condemned the attack as "cowardly" and said the government was working to "contain the situation."

Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera tweeted saying that the attacks killed "many innocent people" and appeared to be a "well-coordinated attempt to create murder, mayhem and anarchy".

The first explosions were reported at St Anthony's Shrine, a church in Colombo and St Sebastian's Church in the town of Negombo just outside the capital. Dozens of people injured in the St Anthony's blast rushed into the Colombo National Hospital.

"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 at Katuwapitiya in Negombo.

Shortly after the blasts were reported from the two churches, police also confirmed that the three hotels had also been attacked, along with a church in Batticaloa. An official at the Batticaloa hospital told AFP more than 300 people had been admitted with injuries following the blast there. "Emergency meeting called in a few minutes. Rescue operations underway," Sri Lanka's Minister of Economic Reforms and Public Distribution, Harsha de Silva tweeted.

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.

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. Several people could be seen covered in blood, with some trying to help those with more serious injuries.

Only around six percent of mainly Buddhist Sri Lanka is Catholic, but the religion is seen as a unifying force because it includes people from both the Tamil and majority Sinhalese ethnic groups.

With inputs from AFP

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Updated Date: Apr 22, 2019 07:04:40 IST