Sri Lanka observed a nationwide three-minute silence today to pay homage to more than 300 people killed in the gruesome Easter Sunday bombings, the country's worst terror attack blamed on a local previously little-known Islamist outfit.
National flags were lowered and people bowed their heads as the silence began at 8:30 am (local time), the time the first of the attacks occurred on Sunday.
National flag will be flown at half-mast today: Kamal Padmasiri
"We have declared today a day of national mourning. We urge people to raise a white flag in honor of the victims," said Kamal Padmasiri, Secretary to the Ministry of Home Affairs.
He said a 3-minute silence was observed nationwide and the national flag will be flown at half-mast.
Police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera said the death toll had risen to 310.
Death toll has now gone up to 310: Gunasekera
"The death toll has now gone up to 310," Gunasekera confirmed.
Seven suicide bombers, believed to be members of an Islamist extremist group - the National Tawheed Jamath (NTJ), carried out a series blasts that ripped through three churches and luxury hotels on Sunday, killing over 300 people and wounding more than 500 others, including 8 Indians, in the country's worst terror attack.
Blasts struck three churches and three luxury hotels
A string of eight blasts reported on Sunday occurred at three churches in Negombo, Batticaloa and Colombo's Kochchikade district during Easter services.
The Shangri-La, Kingsbury and Cinnamon Grand luxury hotels, all in the capital, were also targeted.
No group has claimed responsibility for the attacks, but police have arrested 24 people - mostly members of the NTJ - in connection with the deadly blasts.
Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith to personally attend the 60 funerals
The funerals of most of the victims at the St Sebastian's Church in Katuwapitiya, Negombo will be held this afternoon.
The office of Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith said he would be personally attending the funerals held in the predominant Catholic region in the western coastal district.
"There will be a mass funeral for 60 of the dead at the St Sebastian's Church," a spokesman said.
Curfew, imposed at 8pm last night, lifted at 4am today
Sri Lanka's Parliament will meet in a special session this afternoon. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and leader of the opposition Mahinda Rajapaksa will make statements on the attacks. The curfew that was imposed at 8 pm last night was lifted at 4 am today.
Emergency regulations came into force last night
For the first time since the attack, the traffic returned to roads in Colombo where the security had been heightened with the presence of troops.
The emergency regulations that would allow police and the troops sweeping powers to arrest and detain any suspects also came into force last night.
The Parliament will ratify the emergency regulations tomorrow, said officials.
Blasts shattered decade-long peace since the end of civil war
The blasts shattered a decade of peace in the island nation since the devastating civil war with LTTE ended in 2009.
The civil war ended with the defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which ran a military campaign for a separate Tamil homeland in the northern and eastern provinces of the island nation for nearly 30 years.
Between 70,000-80,000 people were killed in the civil war
The LTTE was responsible for the assassination of Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar. It collapsed in 2009 after the Lankan army killed its supreme leader Velupillai Prabhakaran. The civil war is thought to have killed between 70,000 and 80,000 people.