Sri Lanka attacks probe reveals ex-president set to face charges

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Maithripala Sirisena previously denied knowing about the warnings. (DEPOSIT)

Colombo:

The ex-president of Sri Lanka and his intelligence chiefs should face prosecution for failing to prevent suicide bombings two years ago on Easter Sunday that killed 279 people, according to an investigation released Tuesday.

Maithripala Sirisena, who stepped down last year, was deemed negligent in an investigation he opened five months after attacks by Islamic activists on three hotels and three churches on April 21, 2019.

It quickly emerged that the Indian intelligence services had warned Sri Lanka 17 days in advance of the risk of attacks, following a report by a suspect.

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According to the report of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry, the “balance of probabilities” was that Sirisena had been informed by her intelligence chief of the warnings before the attacks.

The commission, which heard 440 witnesses and delivered its report to parliament on Tuesday, said the attorney general should “consider initiating criminal proceedings against (former) President Sirisena under any appropriate provision of the Criminal Code.”

Sirisena, now the ruling party’s lawmaker, has previously denied knowing about the warnings and made no comment on the report.

The investigation also revealed that Sirisena’s head of intelligence, Nilantha Jayawardena, was criminally responsible for failing to respond to warnings from Indian intelligence services.

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Jayawardena had “diluted the weight of intelligence” from India, according to the report.

He added that Inspector General of Police Pujith Jayasundara should also be prosecuted for negligence.

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Jayasundara and the then top Defense Ministry official Hemasiri Fernando are already accused of failing to prevent the attacks.

The report revealed that the coordinated bombings were funded by the family of a local spice merchant whose two sons were among suicide bombers.

Two days after the attack, ISIS claimed responsibility, but investigators say they have not found a direct link between local jihadists and ISIS.

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The attacks were carried out by Zahran Hashim, an Islamist known to the Sri Lankan counterterrorism police and intelligence services.

He had launched social media calls for the murder of non-Muslims and persuaded six young men to sacrifice themselves in the predominantly Buddhist nation.

The spice merchant’s son, Ilham Ibrahim, died at the Shangri-La Hotel while his brother Inshaf Ibrahim bombed the Cinnamon Grand. The leader Hashim also died at the Shangri-La.

Two churches in Colombo and another in the eastern region of Batticaloa were also hit by suicide bombers.

(This story was not edited by The Bharat Express News on Social Platforms.)

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