Sri Lankan authorities received warnings two weeks before the Easter Sunday terrorist attacks that killed at least 290 people, a cabinet spokesman has said.
“Fourteen days before these incidents occurred, we had been informed about these incidents,” Rajitha Senaratne told a press conference in the capital, Colombo, a day after the bombings, which also injured at least 500 people.
He also said the names of some of the suspects had been given to authorities earlier this month. “On 9 April, the chief of national intelligence wrote a letter and in this letter many of the names of the members of the terrorist organisation were written down.”
Senaratne, Sri Lanka’s health minister, said the intelligence memo warning about the attacks had named the radical Islamist group National Thowheeth Jama’ath as the perpetrators.
National Thowheeth Jama’ath is a newly formed group in Sri Lanka and a strong proponent of the global jihadist movement. It is known for being a virulently anti-Buddhist and has been linked to the vandalisation of Buddhist statues. Four of its members were arrested in January.
Senaratne told the press conference investigators believed those who had carried out the attacks were all Sri Lankan nationals, but did not rule out that the attackers had international assistance. A source in the investigation told the Guardian that there appeared to be some links to an Indian extremist outfit, but no other groups so far.
No group has yet claimed responsibility for the bombings.
The police had 24 suspects in custody on Monday. Police spokesperson Ruwan Gunasekara said they had seized a van and driver they believe transported the suspects into Colombo, and also raided a safe house used by the attackers.
Telecommunications minister, Harin Fernando said: “Right now our biggest priority would be to find what really led these eight or 10 or 12 men to carry out this attack,” he said. “But we are not ruling out a coup as well.” Read more