Eight British nationals have been killed following the suspected terror attack in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday, a senior diplomat has said, while three children of the billionaire owner of online fashion Asos were also named among the victims.
Sri Lankan High Commissioner to the UK, Manisha Gunasekera, said the number of British victims had risen to eight after it was previously reported five were killed in a series of explosions at hotels and churches.
“As of now I think there is information on eight nationals who have lost their lives and the other numbers are of other nationals,” she told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
Ms Gunasekera said the investigations were moving “very swiftly” but warned against taking a “linear view” on the motive of the attacks.
She said: “This cuts across the ethnic and religious dimensions… it’s very difficult to see who has been targeted. It appears as if the entirety of Sri Lanka has been targeted as well as the unity and coexistence that Sri Lankans have attempted so hard to safeguard over the years.”
Danish fashion tycoon Anders Holch Povlsen, the country’s richest man, is mourning the death of his three children.
A spokesperson for the father-of-four confirmed that three of his children were among the dead after they visited Sri Lanka over the Easter holidays.
Mr Povlsen is the second-largest individual private landowner in the UK and Scotland’s largest private landowner.
Police and security services in Sri Lanka are continuing to investigate the Easter massacre which killed nearly 300 people including at least eight Britons.
A series of blasts, most thought to be the work of suicide bombers, ripped through churches and luxury hotels on Easter Sunday.
A Sri Lankan government official said the attacks were carried out by seven suicide bombers from a domestic militant group named National Thowfeek Jamaath.
All of the bombers were Sri Lankan citizens, but authorities suspect foreign links, Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne said at a news conference.
Earlier, Ariyananda Welianga, a government forensic crime investigator, said an analysis of the attackers’ body parts made clear that they were suicide bombers. He said most of the attacks were carried out by a single bomber, with two at Colombo’s Shangri-La Hotel.
Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said there was “lots of speculation at the moment but there is no hard knowledge” about the perpetrators of the atrocity and “we obviously need to wait for the police in Sri Lanka to do their work”.
He said the UK would offer Sri Lanka support in the days to come.
“If there is any help that the UK can give, we would want to give it,” he said.
One line of inquiry will be asking what intelligence services knew about the attack, with Minister for Telecommunications Harin Fernando tweeting: “Some intelligence officers were aware of this incidence.
“Therefore there was a delay in action. What my father heard was also from an intelligence officer. Serious action need to be taken as to why this warning was ignored.”
In Colombo, St Anthony’s Shrine and the Cinnamon Grand, Shangri-La and Kingsbury hotels were targeted in the first wave of explosions shortly before 9am local time as worshippers attended morning services and tourists enjoyed their breakfasts.
Among the Britons feared dead are Anita Nicholson, 42, and her 11-year-old son Alex.
They were reported to have been dining in the Shangri-La when the bomber struck.
According to her LinkedIn profile, Mrs Nicholson was based in Singapore as managing counsel at the mining and metals company Anglo American.
Britons caught up in the carnage in Colombo described the horrific scenes they witnessed.
Following the blast at the Cinnamon Grand, NHS doctor Julian Emmanuel, from Surrey, told The Sun: “I’ve never seen such utter devastation.”
He added: “My children and wife are traumatised by what they saw today. We will never forget this. We will always remember Easter Sunday for this reason now.”
Kieran Arasaratnam, a professor at Imperial College London Business School, was staying at the Shangri-La.
“Everyone just started to panic, it was total chaos,” he told the BBC. “I looked to the room on the right and there’s blood everywhere.
“Everyone was running and a lot of people just don’t know what was going on. People had blood on their shirt and there was someone carrying a girl to the ambulance. The walls and the floor were covered in blood.”
Hampstead and Kilburn MP Tulip Siddiq said she had lost a relative in the attacks.
She posted on Twitter: “It’s all so devastating. Hope everyone is keeping safe. Solidarity with the people of Sri Lanka.”
Prime Minister Theresa May said the Easter Sunday massacre was “truly appalling”, and “no-one should ever have to practise their faith in fear”.
A curfew was imposed by the authorities on Sunday night and social media use was also restricted by the authorities, which claimed the move was to prevent the spread of false information.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn called for “unity, love and respect” to combat hatred.
He said: “I’m appalled by the horrific attacks in Sri Lanka, on Easter Sunday, the most important day in the Christian calendar.”
Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said: “On this holy day, let us stand with the people of Sri Lanka in prayer, condolence and solidarity as we reject all violence, all hatred and all division.”
Sri Lanka’s prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe condemned “the cowardly attacks on our people”.
Nisanga Mayadunne, who studied at the University of London according to her Facebook profile, and her mother Shantha – a TV chef – were also reported to be among the dead.
Nisanga posted a photo of her family eating breakfast in the Shangri-La on Easter Sunday.