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Sri Lanka Blasts: President says 'warning' report wasn't shared with him, may change heads of defence forces

New Delhi, News Nation Bureau | Updated : 23 April 2019, 11:03 PM
His comments came amid mounting pressure on Police Chief Pujith Jayasundara to resign following his failure to prevent the worst terror attack in the country's history despite having prior intelligence about it.
His comments came amid mounting pressure on Police Chief Pujith Jayasundara to resign following his failure to prevent the worst terror attack in the country's history despite having prior intelligence about it.

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena said intelligence report warning of terror attacks, that killed 321 people and injured more than 400 on Easter Sunday, was not shared with him, adding that his government will make changes of the heads of defence forces within 24 hours.

Addressing the nation for the first time since the Easter Sunday blasts, Sirisena expressed his deepest condolences to all those who had lost their lives during Easter Sunday's "unexpected" attacks.

"I am hoping to make changes in top positions in the security establishment within the next 24 hours," he said. The measures would be taken to restructure the Police Department and the security forces in near future in order to prevent such acts of terrorism, he added

His comments came amid mounting pressure on Police Chief Pujith Jayasundara to resign following his failure to prevent the worst terror attack in the country's history despite having prior intelligence about it.

"People question why action had not been taken despite the availability of intelligence support from a friendly neighbouring country," Sirisena said.

The President also called on the public to refrain from looking at the Muslim community with a suspicious eye following the attacks. It was only a small group which had engaged in such acts of terror, he added.

President Sirisena said that the country is faced with a different type of terrorism unlike the LTTE which had engaged in war for nearly three decades.

He vowed "to eradicate the local radical group which has links to an international terrorist movement."

Sirisena also said that the emergency was declared to strengthen and provide more powers to the police and the tri-forces in order to prevent acts of terrorism in the country. 

It came after a report claimed that Indian intelligence agencies had warned their Sri Lankan counterparts about a possible terror attack hours before a series of explosions ripped through the island nation.

Indian intelligence officers contacted their Sri Lanka counterparts two hours before the first attack to warn of a specific threat on churches, Reuters quoted one Sri Lankan defence source and an India n government source as saying.

Moreover, the Indian government source said similar messages had been sent Sri Lankan intelligence agents on April 4 and April 20.

The Islamic State has claimed repsonsibility for the attack and identified the seven suicide bombers who were involved in the attacks.

In a statement issued through its propaganda 'Amaq' news agency, the ISIS said that "the executors of the attack that targeted citizens of coalition states and Christians in Sri Lanka two days ago were with the group," according to the Site Intelligence Group, which monitors jihadist activities.

The statement identified the attackers as Abu Ubayda, Abu al-Mukhtar, Abu Khalil, Abu Hamza, Abu al-Bara'a, Abu Muhammad and Abu Abdullah, and their respective targets.

It also claimed that around 1,000 people were killed or wounded in the blasts.

"The detail given in #ISIS' communique (attackers' names, where each of them attacked) shows that the group had a hand in the attack - the degree to which still remains to be seen. The group's delay in claiming is also an unanswered variable," SITE Intelligence Group Director Rita Katz tweeted.

Sri Lanka has said local Islamist extremist group called the National Tawheed Jamath (NTJ) is suspected of plotting the blasts.

"All suicide bombers involved in the blasts are believed to be Sri Lankan nationals," said Government's spokesman Rajitha Senaratne, who is also the Health Minister.

Forty suspects, including the driver of a van allegedly used by the suicide bombers, have been arrested in connection with the attacks which shook Sri Lanka.

(With agency inputs)

First Published: Tuesday, April 23, 2019 10:08 PM
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