Colombo: The series of bombings that rocked Sri Lanka on Sunday was allegedly carried out by a little-known local jihadist group, National Thowheed Jamath with the support of an international network, claimed officials.
The serial bomb attack on churches and hotels claimed the lives of 290 people and left another 500 people injured. However, no one has claimed responsibility for the terror bombings so far. Meanwhile, the police have arrested 24 people in connection with the case after conducting a series of raids.
Notably, the president’s office declared a state of national emergency, which came into effect from midnight (18:30 GMT) on Monday. The emergency will give police and military extensive powers to detain and interrogate suspects without court orders.
Cabinet spokesman Rajitha Senaratne reportedly said that the Sri Lankan authorities were warned about a bomb threat from National Thowheed Jamath a full two weeks before the attacks. Senaratne said that authorities believed the bombers had international support. “We do not believe these attacks were carried out by a group of people who were confined to this country,” he said, adding that there was an international network without which these attacks could not have succeeded.”
He said that the warnings were not passed on to the Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, or his cabinet. Wickremesinghe acknowledged that security services had been “aware of information” but had not acted on the information.
Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando said that the intelligence “never indicated it was going to be an attack of this magnitude”.”They were talking about isolated, one or two incidents. Not like this,” he said. Though the important departments of the police were informed about the warning in advance, no action was taken, stated Fernando.
Yet another statement said that President Maithripala Sirisena would ask for foreign help to track down the international links to the attackers. “The intelligence reports [indicate] that foreign terrorist organisations are behind the local terrorists. Therefore, the president is to seek the assistance of the foreign countries,” his office said.
(With agency inputs)