Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena said on Friday that he was not informed of intelligence from a “friendly foreign country” of the possibility of terror attacks in the island country. At least 253 people were killed in serial bombings in Sri Lanka on April 21.
“There was a serious lapse on the part of Defence Secretary [Hemasiri Fernando] and the Inspector General of Police [Pujith Jayasundara] who failed to inform me about the intelligence agency letter from a friendly foreign country, sent on April 4, warning about a possible attack,” Sirisena told News18 in an interview. “The letter warned of possible attacks on churches, places of public gatherings and VIPs.”
He said the defence secretary and the inspector general of police came to wish him on New Year’s Day on April 14, but did not inform him of the warning. Both Fernando and Jayasundara have resigned.
Sirisena said the Sri Lankan government had to declare an emergency to suppress terrorism and ensure peace in the country. He also denied that there was any infighting within the government following the attacks.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe apologised to the country in a tweet. “We take collective responsibility and apologise to our fellow citizens for our failure to protect victims of these tragic events,” he said. “We pledge to rebuild our churches, revive our economy, and take all measures to prevent terrorism, with the support of the international community.”
In an interview with the BBC, Wickremesinghe, like Sirisena, said that he was not informed of the intelligence on possible attacks. He said that he would have resigned if he had any inkling of the warnings and had failed to prevent the bombings. “But what do you do when you are out of the loop?” he added.
A curfew was imposed in Kalmunai, Chavalakade and Samanthurai police areas of Ampara District in the evening, after explosions were reported during a police raid on a suspected bomb factory, adaderana.lk reported. The raid led to a shootout between the police and an armed group. The group reportedly blew itself up during the exchange of fire.
Earlier on Friday, Sirisena said that Zahran Hashim, a Sri Lankan Islamist extremist who allegedly played a key role in the Easter Sunday bombings, died in the blast at the Shangri-La hotel in Colombo. Hashim was the head of the extremist group National Tawheed Jamath, Sirisena said.
The Sri Lankan Police had on Thursday released names and photographs of six suspects wanted in connection with the bombings. The police have appealed to the people to provide information on the suspects to the Criminal Investigation Department. According to Sirisena, 139 people have been identified as suspects.