Colombo: Sri Lankan intelligence officials were tipped off about the imminent attack by Islamist militants hours before the Easter Sunday bombings which so far has left more than 350 people deaf.
Three churches and four hotels were hit by suicide bombers Sunday morning resulting in many deaths and leaving more than 500 injured. Initially no group had claimed responsibility behind the attack, but Tuesday the Islamic State (IS) said that they were behind the bombings.
Among the countries who had warned the Sri Lankans were India. Intelligence officers from India had contacted their Sri Lankan counterparts two hours before the first attack to warn of a specific threat on churches, one Sri Lankan defence source and an Indian government source told this agency, Wednesday.
Another Sri Lankan defence source said a warning came ‘hours before’ the first strike. One of the Sri Lankan sources informed that a warning was also sent Saturday night by the Indians. The Indian government source said similar messages had been given to Sri Lankan intelligence agents April 4 and April 20.
Sri Lanka’s presidency and the Indian foreign ministry both did not respond to requests for comment.
Sri Lanka’s failure to effectively respond to a looming Islamist threat will definitely fuel fears that a rift between Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and President Maithripala Sirisena is undermining national security. The President had fired Wickremesinghe last October over political differences, only to reinstate him weeks later under pressure from the Supreme Court.
Sri Lankan police had been warned weeks ago about possible attacks by a little-known domestic Islamist group, according to an Indian intelligence report given to Sri Lankan state intelligence services, and seen by this agency.
However, Sirisena has said that his office never received the Indian report. Junior Defence Minister Ruwan Wijewardene, an ally of Wickremesinghe, also told this agency he was not privy to the Indian intelligence findings.