COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — Several near-simultaneous blasts tore through three churches and three luxury hotels in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday, the bloodiest outbreak of violence in the South Asian country since civil war ended a decade ago.
No one has claimed responsibility. Since the decades-long conflict between the majority Sinhalese and minority Tamils ended in 2009 a religious divide has taken hold. Buddhist nationalists accuse Muslims of attacking Buddhist shrines and trying to recruit Buddhist children, which Muslims deny.
Here is a look at the sites targeted in the blasts.
St. Anthony's Shrine: This Roman Catholic church, located in the Kochchikade suburb of Sri Lanka's capital, Colombo, is one of the country's best-known churches. Its roots reach back to the 18th century Dutch colonial period, when Catholicism was forbidden and priests would often hold services in secret. Local beliefs say the church's founder, disguised as a merchant, helped a seaside fishing community by praying to stop the sea from eroding their village. The church was later built near the site.
St. Sebastian's Church: This Catholic church is in Negombo, a largely Catholic town north of Colombo. Built in the Gothic style, it was patterned on the Reims Cathedral in France and was completed in the 1940s.
Zion Church: This church is in the eastern coastal city of Batticaloa. It was founded in the 1970s.
The Shangri-La Hotel: This towering, luxurious hotel is located near Colombo's main business district and is just a few steps from the sea. It has 500 guest rooms and suites and 41 serviced apartments.
The Kingsbury Colombo Hotel: This luxury hotel is located in Colombo's city center, just a few minutes' walk from the Shangri-La. It has 229 rooms.
The Cinnamon Grand Colombo hotel: This hotel is located about a mile (2 kilometers) from the Kingsbury and near the sea in a bustling business district. It has 483 rooms and 18 suites.