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World leaders express shock, sorrow over deadly attacks in Sri Lanka

Dinuka Liyanawatte, REUTERS | Sri Lankan military officials in front of the St. Anthony's Shrine, Kochchikade church after an explosion in Colombo, Sri Lanka, April 21, 2019.

Religious and world leaders expressed shock after a series of blasts in Sri Lanka killed nearly 300 people on Sunday, including dozens of foreigners – with British, Dutch, Chinese and American citizens believed to be among them.

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Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe condemned the attacks – the worst act of violence since the end of Sri Lanka's civil war a decade ago – as "cowardly", as the government imposed an immediate and indefinite curfew across the entire country of 21 million people.

The powerful blasts – six in quick succession and then two more hours later – left hundreds injured and wrought devastation, including at the capital's well-known St Anthony's Shrine, a historic Catholic Church.

Sri Lankan police say 290 people were killed and 500 wounded.

Religious and world leaders have condemned the attacks.

'No place for such barbarism'

Pope Francis expressed his sadness over the attacks during his traditional Easter address at the Vatican.

"I want to express my affectionate closeness with the Christian community, attacked while it was at prayer, and to all the victims of such cruel violence," he said.

The Catholic Church in Jerusalem had said in an earlier statement: "We pray for the souls of the victims and ask for speedy recovery of the injured, and ask God to inspire the terrorists to repent of their killing and intimidation."

“Deep sorrow following the terrorist attacks against churches and hotels in Sri Lanka. We firmly condemn these heinous acts. All our solidarity with the people of Sri Lanka and our thoughts go out to all victims’ relatives on this Easter Day,” French President Emmanuel Macron said on Twitter.

“It is shocking that people who had gathered to celebrate Easter were the deliberate target of vicious attacks,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel wrote in a letter of condolence to Sri Lanka’s president.

British Prime Minister Theresa May described the attacks as "truly appalling".

"The acts of violence against churches and hotels in Sri Lanka are truly appalling, and my deepest sympathies go out to all of those affected at this tragic time," she tweeted.

"We must stand together to make sure that no one should ever have to practise their faith in fear."

“Heartfelt condolences from the people of the United States to the people of Sri Lanka on the horrible terrorist attacks on churches and hotels,” US President Donald Trump tweeted. “... We stand ready to help!”

Narendra Modi, the leader of neighbouring India, said his thoughts are with the bereaved families.

"There is no place for such barbarism in our region," he tweeted. "India stands in solidarity with the people of Sri Lanka."

Pakistan's leader Imran Khan offered his "profound condolences" to Sri Lanka.

"Strongly condemn the horrific terrorist attack in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday resulting in precious lives lost & hundreds injured," he tweeted.

"My profound condolences go to our Sri Lankan brethren. Pakistan stands in complete solidarity with Sri Lanka in their hour of grief."

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu expressed "deep shock" over the attacks. In a statement issued on Sunday, he said that "Israel stands ready to assist the authorities in Sri Lanka at this difficult time".

The prime minister said that "the entire world must unite in the battle against the scourge of terrorism".

Iran's foreign minister said he is "terribly saddened" by the Easter Sunday bombings in Sri Lanka that have killed at least 138 people. Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted that "terrorism is a global menace with no religion: it must be condemned & confronted globally".

Lebanon's prime minister called the attacks "blind terrorism" and offers solidarity to Sri Lanka's people. Saad Hariri in a tweet asked for mercy for the "innocent victims" and speedy recovery for the injured.

EU commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker expressed his "horror and sadness" at the blasts, while EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said the attacks marked "a truly sad day for the country and for the world".

"Such acts of violence on this holy day are acts of violence against all beliefs and denominations, and against all those who value the freedom of religion and the choice to worship," she added in a statement.

The US ambassador to Sri Lanka, Alaina Teplitz, tweeted: "Deeply saddened by the senseless attacks in Sri Lanka today. Our thoughts are with the victims and their families. We stand with Sri Lanka's people at this terrible moment."

(FRANCE 24 with AP and AFP)

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