Sri Lankan minister and government spokesperson, Rajitha Senaratne, on Monday said a local outfit identified as the National Tawheed Jamath is suspected of plotting the serial blasts that struck the island nation on Easter Sunday, PTI reported. Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena will declare a nationwide emergency from midnight on Monday, according to Reuters.
A blast was reported on Monday near the St Anthony’s church in Kochchikade, Colombo, where an explosion took place on Sunday, when bomb disposal squads were trying to diffuse a bomb, AFP quoted Sri Lanka police as saying. According to The Sunday Times, it was a “controlled detonation” of an improvised explosive device planted in a vehicle parked near the church.
Senaratne said foreign links are suspected although the group is domestic, and that all the attackers are believed to be Sri Lankan nationals, reported The Independent. There are currently 24 suspects in custody for questioning.
Senaratne, who was addressing a press conference in Colombo, said the chief of National Intelligence had warned the Inspector General of Police of probable attacks before April 11. “On April 4, international intelligence agencies had warned of these attacks,” the minister said. “The IGP was informed on April 9. Senaratne sought the resignation of police chief Pujith Jayasundera in view of the security lapse.
He said the National Tawheed Jamath – a radical Islamist group – is suspected of plotting the explosions. “There may be international links to them,” Senaratne said.
Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena said the country will seek foreign assistance to track the international links, according to Reuters.
No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Meanwhile, a police spokesperson said police recovered 87 low explosive detonators abandoned at a private bus stand in Pettah, Colombo, reported AFP.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on Sunday said the Sri Lankan government was “aware of information regarding a possible attack”, according to adaderana.lk. “While this goes on we must also look into why adequate precautions were not taken,” he said.
Minister and leader of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress, Rauff Hakeem, criticised the lack of preventive action despite the intelligence inputs. “They have known this..., the names have been given, identified, but [they] took no action,” he said.
The government has declared Tuesday, April 23, a national day of mourning. Police curfew, which was lifted at 6 am on Monday, will be re-imposed from 8 pm on Monday till 4 am on Tuesday, according to adaderana.lk.