This was Sri Lanka’s worst terror attack since the civil war between minority Tamils and the government representing the Sinhalese majority which ended in 2009.
The mass targeting of Christians and western-style hotels has taken the Sri Lankan authorities and western intelligence agencies by surprise.
It is not yet known who is behind the eight explosions.
But they do have the hallmarks of Islamic State or one of its associate groups – simultaneous blasts aimed at triggering horror, mass casualties and with no immediate claim of responsibility.
There are reports of some Sri Lankan Muslims travelling outside the country to fight for Islamic State so terrorist returnees could be under suspicion.
Sri Lanka suffers from bitter unfinished business from the civil war so some say it is possible Tamils may have marked next month’s 10-year anniversary of the end of the war. But why target Christians, western hotels and foreigners?
Since the war, there have been many attacks by the Sinhalese Buddhist majority on Muslims.
But, again, why would any Muslim retaliation be directed against Christians?
A lack of a homegrown culprit may point towards an outsider being responsible.
Even though a number of people were arrested within hours of the explosions, it may have been the police rounding up the usual suspects to appear in control.
The defence minister Ruwan Wijewardene claims the bombers have been identified as religious extremists from one group.
But this does not exclude the theory that it was an outsider group and inevitably the prime suspect would be Islamic State, hate-filled and fuelled by the desire for revenge over its Caliphate’s defeat in Iraq and Syria.
Just when we were looking ahead to a brighter future
By David Grigson, Sri Lankan-born businessman
I am devastated by the attacks in Sri Lanka for so many reasons.
For the victims and their families, and for a country that has been through so much in the last 40 years, with a complicated, horrible, long war, then the terrible tsunami.
Just when everyone was looking forward to a brighter future, this happens. It’s so sad.
What makes it worse is that nobody really knows why.
The source of this tragedy does not appear to be the the traditional forces of conflict.
There have been one or two minor clashes between the old rival groups, the Tamils from the north and the Sinhalese people from the south, since the end of the war but no one’s ever targeted Christians or tourists before.
What makes it particularly sad is that the Sri Lankan Christians are made up of both Sinhalese and Tamils who come together under the banner of Christianity and represent a strong unifying force in an otherwise ethnically riven country.
I was born in Sri Lanka in 1954, lived there until I was 18, and am back and forth all the time.
It feels like home to me.
My daughter’s family were staying in the Shangri-La Hotel in February, my wife was there last August.
I’ve stayed at the Cinnamon Grand as well – they are lovely places.
I was in Sri Lanka as recently as two weeks ago and there was never any kind of worry that something like this was about to happen. It’s come completely out of the blue.
The concern right now will be the repercussions. And the first thing that will happen is an awful lot of people planning holidays to Sri Lanka will think twice about going.
There was a political crisis through October/November and a lot of people cancelled their holidays as a result.
But this attack is on a different scale – so that is exactly what’s going to happen again except worse.
The Sri Lankan tourist industry has taken off in recent years but it still lags way behind where it should be in relation to other countries in Asia.
It has a lot of catching up to do, and there was a bright future – but this is a massive setback.