Sri Lanka Bombings Live Updates: Deadly Carnage at Churches and Hotels – The New York Times

A witness, Sarita Marlou, who was at the Shangri-La hotel, wrote in a Facebook post that one blast occurred at 8:57 a.m. in the Table One Restaurant on the third floor where people had gathered for brunch.

“Felt the blast all the way up to the 17th floor where we were sleeping,” she wrote. “Few minutes later, we were asked to evacuate the hotel. While running down the stairs, saw a lot of blood on the floor but we were still clueless as to what really happened.”

Ms. Marlou posted that the guests had been stuck outside for more than two hours before being ushered back inside as the sun got hot. But they still were not cleared to go back to their rooms, she wrote.

The government shut down access to major social media and messaging services, including Facebook and WhatsApp, and internet transmission slowed drastically.

The authorities took a similar step after sectarian violence last year. At that time, some of the violence has been instigated by Facebook postings that threatened attacks on Muslims, the government said.

There were also reports that the government had set a nationwide curfew from 6 p.m. Sunday to 6 a.m. Monday.

Brahma Chellaney, a professor of strategic studies at the Center for Policy Research in New Delhi, said that radical Islamist groups had been quietly growing in influence for years in Sri Lanka, in the nearby Indian state of Tamil Nadu and in the nearby island nation of the Maldives.

Mr. Chellaney said that it was unexpected that the attackers had the confidence to raid hotels in Sri Lanka, saying that the island’s hotels had tried to provide tight security during the island’s civil war and ever since.

“Hotels are on guard in Sri Lanka, so I’m surprised that three hotels still came under target,” he said.

Buddhist statues were defaced last year in Sri Lanka in what appears to have been an iconoclastic attack by Muslims, he said. In the Maldives, radical Muslims destroyed Buddhist archaeological finds in early 2012 at the country’s National Museum.

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