The Criminal Investigation Department in Sri Lanka on Tuesday arrested the country’s police chief and its former defence secretary for allegedly failing to prevent the Easter Sunday bombings on April 21 that killed more than 250 people at churches and hotels, Reuters reported.
Police spokesperson Ruwan Gunasekera said Inspector General of Police Pujith Jayasundara and former Secretary to the Ministry of Defence Hemasiri Fernando were arrested when they were receiving medical treatment at state-run hospitals.
Jayasundara and Fernando are the first two state officials to be arrested for allegedly failing to prevent the bombings. “Police will report facts regarding the arrest to the Colombo chief magistrate in a while,” Gunasekera told Reuters.
The arrests came a day after Attorney General Dappula de Livera had urged the acting police chief to bring charges against the two, including for “crimes against humanity”. “There is sufficient information to prove negligence of official duties ... and criminal negligence,” Livera had said in a letter to the police chief. “It is also considered a grave crime against humanity under international law.”
The Islamic State group had claimed responsibility for the bombings, which took place despite repeated warnings from Indian intelligence that an attack was imminent in the country.
President Maithripala Sirisena had also accused both Fernando and Jayasundara of failing to act on an April 4 intelligence report about an attack planned on Easter Sunday. However, both of them had previously appeared before a parliamentary committee investigating the attacks and denied the allegations.
Jayasundara had told the parliamentary committee, led by allies of Sirisena’s rival, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, that the president had asked him to take the blame for the attacks and resign, and claimed that he promised him a diplomatic posting in return.
Fernando had resigned as defence secretary four days after the attack took place. He told the committee that Sirisena had instructed to keep Wickremesinghe, with whom he fell out in October, out of security council meetings. The defence secretary reports to the president, who heads the Defence Ministry.
Sirisena had opposed the parliamentary committee conducting a separate inquiry while court cases were being heard on the blasts. He had also said he would not accept the committee’s conclusions.