Sri Lanka Blasts: Govt Names Jihadist Group Thowheed Jamath
Sri Lanka’s police chief issued a nationwide alert 10 days before Sunday’s bomb attacks, but it was ignored.
The Sri Lankan government on Monday, 22 April, held local jihadist group National Thowheed Jamath responsible for serial blasts, which killed at least 290 people on Easter Sunday. Information about an imminent attack was reportedly passed to the island nation by Indian intelligence agencies to the Sri Lankan authorities earlier in April.
However, the group has denied responsibility for the attack even after the government named them, reported India Today.
Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on Sunday, 21 April, said his “government was aware of the information regarding a possible attack but adequate precautions were not taken to prevent it", reported AFP.
According to The New York Times, Wickremesinghe claimed that while there was prior information, he was not made aware of it.
He also said that as per the information he has received, “the perpetrators were locals”.
Catch the live updates on the Sri Lanka attacks here.
India Passed On Specific Intelligence Information
Sources told The Indian Express that India had passed on specific intelligence information to Sri Lankan authorities about an imminent terrorist attack.
Following this, the Sri Lankan police chief Pujuth Jayasundara issued a nationwide alert 10 days before Sunday's bomb attacks in the country that suicide bombers planned to hit "prominent churches", according to the warning seen by AFP. The warning was sent to top officers on 11 April.
“A foreign intelligence agency has reported that the NTJ – National Thowheeth Jama’ath – is planning to carry out suicide attacks targeting prominent churches as well as the Indian High Commission in Colombo,” said the alert.
This warning was ignored as the country was shut from 12 April for Sinhala-Tamil new year, followed by Good Friday and Easter.
However, this alert was again circulated on 20 April, a day before the attack, reported CNN.
Sri Lankan Telecommunications Minister Harin Fernando tweeted that “serious action” needs to be taken for ignoring the warning.
NTJ Hasn’t Claimed Responsibility
The NTJ is a radical Muslim group in Sri Lanka that came to notice last year when it was linked to the vandalisation of Buddhist statues.
The group has, however, condemned the attacks on their Facebook page, and demanded the highest punishment to the perpetrators.
Governor of The Eastern Province Mahamood Lebbe Alim Mohamed Hizbullah, in a phone conversation with The Leaders Online, dismissed allegations that NTJ was behind the blasts.
“Some people claim it is Thowheed Jamaat. We are investigating. We are consistently investigating but there is no evidence against any party, any community or any group. They are innocent but we are sure we can identify them (the perpetrators),” said Hizbullah to The Leaders Online.
At least 290 people were killed and 500 injured in eight blasts on Sunday that targeted three churches and three high-end hotels. Thirteen arrests have been made in connection with the blasts.
(Published in an arrangement with PTI, with inputs from The Indian Express, CNN)
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