Sri Lanka attack death toll rises to 290

By Euan McKirdy, Sheena McKenzie, Caitlin Hu, Lauren Said-Moorhouse, Harmeet Kaur, Jessie Yeung and Meg Wagner, CNN

Updated 2223 GMT (0623 HKT) June 21, 2019
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5:42 a.m. ET, April 22, 2019

Expert warns political tensions could have contributed to breakdown in intelligence sharing

In the aftermath of the blasts at eight sites across Sri Lanka on Sunday, the existence of a memo warning of a potential attack has emerged. A police source told CNN the memo was dated April 11, 10 days before tragedy struck.

Sajjan Gohel, international security director for the Asia-Pacific Foundation, tells CNN the memo "could be a vital piece in understanding the network that exists inside Sri Lanka."

I think what's also significant is that Sri Lanka's political system may have also played a role in that information not being relayed correctly. The government there is a system of cohabitation like in France," Gohel added.

Gohel says the Sri Lankan President does not have a good relationship with the Prime Minister.

"When it comes to what has transpired in the Columbo, Sri Lanka attacks, it shows that lack of information being relayed, it could result in this mass devastation," he added.

5:01 a.m. ET, April 22, 2019

Violence is and never will be the answer, says humanitarian group's Sri Lanka chief

Following a series of coordinated attacks on churches and hotels on Easter Sunday in Sri Lanka, Jagath Abeysinghe, president of the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society, has warned the population not to respond with violence.

In a tweeted statement, Abeysinghe said:

As we continue to learn more about the attacks, it is vital that we receive this information and exercise restrain when responding to them. Violence is and never will be answer (sic)."

Abeysinghe added that instead people should focus on holding "our leaders accountable."

"We need to know whether this was an incident that could have been averted? And if so why did it not occur that way?"

Read his full statement here:  

3:38 a.m. ET, April 22, 2019

Minister: "All funeral costs are taken care of"

Harsha de Silva, the country's economic reforms minister, has promised in a tweet that funeral costs for those who died at St. Sebastian's Church in Negombo will be covered by the government.

He said that 102 people had died at the site.

3:37 a.m. ET, April 22, 2019

Two Australians killed

Two Australians died in the bombings, Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters in Melbourne on Monday. They were members of the same family, living in Sri Lanka, he said.

Morrison added that two Australian women had also been injured and were being treated for shrapnel wounds and a broken leg.

3:37 a.m. ET, April 22, 2019

Colombo hospital director: Three children in critical care

Kumar Wickramasinghe, director of Colombo’s National Hospital, was working in the medical ward on Sunday morning when blast victims were first brought in.

The hospital received 263 people in the wake of Sunday’s attacks, he told CNN. Three children are among the wounded receiving intensive care.

The hospital is not in need of supplies, Wickramasinghe said, adding that so many locals came forward to donate blood yesterday that the hospital had to turn some volunteers away.

“We have enough supplies, medicine and others things, but help is always welcome,” he added.

5:08 a.m. ET, April 22, 2019

US State Department travel advisory: "Terrorist groups continue plotting possible attacks in Sri Lanka"

From CNN’s Nicholas Neville in Washington, DC

The US State Department has issued a revised travel notice about Sri Lanka, warning that “terrorist groups continue plotting possible attacks in Sri Lanka," and reminding travelers to exercise caution.

Read the full statement:

Sri Lanka Travel Advisory

Exercise increased caution in Sri Lanka due to terrorism. 

Terrorist groups continue plotting possible attacks in Sri Lanka. Terrorists may attack with little or no warning, targeting tourist locations, transportation hubs, markets/shopping malls, local government facilities, hotels, clubs, restaurants, places of worship, parks, major sporting and cultural events, educational institutions, airports, and other public areas.

Read the Safety and Security section on the country information page.

If you decide to travel to Sri Lanka:

  • Be aware of your surroundings when traveling to tourist locations and crowded public venues.
  • Follow the instructions of local authorities.
  • Monitor local media for breaking events and adjust your plans based on new information.
  • Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive Alerts and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.
  • Follow the Department of State on Facebook and Twitter.
  • Review the Crime and Safety Report for Sri Lanka.
  • US citizens who travel abroad should always have a contingency plan for emergency situations. Review the Traveler’s Checklist.
2:09 a.m. ET, April 22, 2019

No group has claimed responsibility for the attacks

From CNN's Jenni Marsh in Hong Kong

No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack, and the police investigation is ongoing.

Sri Lanka's Sajith Premadasa, Minister of Housing Construction and Cultural Affairs, described the Sunday attacks as a "brand new type of terrorism," after a decade of relative calm.

Sri Lanka's long civil war between the separatist Tamil Tigers and the government ended in 2009, after claiming between 70,000 and 80,000 lives. Handling that conflict had prepared the government to deal with terrorism, Premadasa said.

"During the 30-year terrorist war there were indiscriminate attacks on all institutions, they (the Tamil Tigers) did not spare any in their path towards a separatist state, but we were victorious in defeating terrorism," he added.  

1:35 a.m. ET, April 22, 2019

Buddhist monks visit a damaged church

From CNN staff in Colombo

Buddhist monks arrive at St. Anthony's Shrine in Colombo, one of the sites attacked on Sunday.
Buddhist monks arrive at St. Anthony's Shrine in Colombo, one of the sites attacked on Sunday.

A small group of Buddhist monks in saffron robes arrived at St Anthony’s Shrine in Kochchikade today, where a crowd of onlookers had gathered outside a police and army perimeter. Damage from Sunday blast could still be seen outside the church.

Sri Lanka is a country of great religious diversity that crosses ethnic lines, and the monks’ presence was a sign of this. While Sri Lanka does not have a history of interfaith violence, there have been attacks against Muslims by extremist Buddhist groups in the past.

According to census data, 70.2% of Sri Lankans identify as Buddhist, 12% Hindu, 9.7% Muslim, and 7.4% Christian. It is estimated that 82% of Sri Lankan Christians are Roman Catholic.

5:09 a.m. ET, April 22, 2019

Hotel guest: "It was the second blast when I sensed that something was not right"

From CNN's Stella Ko in Hong Kong

Akshat Saraf, 30, was in Colombo's Shangri-La Hotel with his wife and infant daughter when the explosions struck. They could hear blasts from their room on the 25th floor, the Indian national told CNN.

“First blast was very loud and our room started shaking. At first I thought it was a thunderstorm and I didn’t pay too much attention. It had been raining in Sri Lanka for some time,” he said.

“It was the second blast when I sensed that something was not right.”

He and his family grabbed their passports and took the emergency exit to head to the ground floor.

When we reached the 4th floor we saw blood on the stairs,” Saraf said. “When we evacuated that’s when we saw a lot of ambulances and hotel staffs helping the injured guests outside.”

“It was a horrific sight. When I saw injured guests, they seemed very serious. Some of them [had] junks of glass stuck in their body. I could see some of the chefs in white aprons covered in blood.”

Police, army and emergency services personnel began arriving within five minutes, Saraf said. Guests were evacuated offsite, and then to a nearby shelter with a few hours, he added.