Sri Lanka blasts: Government admits major intel lapses

PTI Colombo | Updated on April 24, 2019 Published on April 24, 2019

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena. File Photo   -  Reuters

President vows security forces’ overhaul

The Sri Lankan government on Wednesday admitted that “major” intelligence lapses led to the massive Easter Sunday bombings that killed over 350 people and indicated that heads will roll for failing to act on tip-offs.

Top officials have acknowledged that Sri Lanka received intelligence about possible terror strikes ahead of the attacks, but both President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe have said that they did not receive the information.

State Minister of Defence Ruwan Wijewardene, addressing a press conference here, accepted that there had been “major” lapses in the security arrangements. “We (the government) have to take the responsibility. The President (Maithripala Sirisena) is planning to make some changes in the security establishments,” he said. “Some of them (the attackers), in earlier incidents, had been taken into custody (after) small skirmishes, but nothing of this magnitude,” Wijewardene said.

Intelligence information

Sri Lankan and international media reported that India and the US provided specific warnings about terror attacks to Sri Lanka, ahead of the Easter Sunday bombings. President Sirisena on Tuesday assured the nation that he would take steps to curtail terrorism and bring back normalcy swiftly. He said that he will make some immediate changes in the high security positions as there was negligence in carrying out responsibilities.

The President said that since 2017, there were intelligence information about the emergence of terrorist groups and the fact that some of them were receiving training in foreign countries. “Our security services kept a close vigilance on these groups,” Sirisena said. He acknowledged that there were lapses on the part of defence authorities.

Although there was intelligence report about these attacks, he was not informed about them, he said. Sirisena said that though there were intelligence reports about possible terrorist cells, no legal action could be taken with normal laws without sufficient evidence.

Nine suicide bombers, including a woman, were involved in the massive Easter Sunday bombings that killed at least 359 people, a top police officer said. So far 60 people have been arrested in connection with the attacks, police spokesman Ruwan Guansekera said, adding that more than 500 people have been injured in the bombings.

The National Tawheed Jamath (NTJ) has been named as the perpetrators by the government, but it has not claimed responsibility for the attacks. The Islamic State terror group has claimed responsibility for the devastating Easter blasts in Sri Lanka and identified the suicide bombers who were involved in the attacks. The suicide bombers carried out a series of devastating blasts that tore through churches and luxury hotels in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday, in the country’s worst terror attack.

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Published on April 24, 2019
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