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  • Sri Lankan President wants the defense secretary to be moved from office for failing to act on an intelligence report about the attacks.

    Sri Lankan President wants the defense secretary to be moved from office for failing to act on an intelligence report about the attacks. | Photo: Reuters

Published 24 April 2019

Sri Lankan President Sirisena asked for the resignation of the defense secretary and top police officer for failing to act on intelligence they had about attacks.

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena asked for the resignations of National Defense Secretary Hemasiri Fernando and Inspector General of Police Pujith Jayasundara for failing to act on warnings they had access to before the Easter suicide bombings which claimed 359 lives.

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Parliamentary leader, Lakshman Kiriella, said senior officials deliberately withheld intelligence about possible attacks.

"Some top intelligence officials hid the intelligence information purposefully ... The top brass security officials did not take appropriate actions," Kiriella, who is also minister of public enterprise, told parliament Wednesday.

Sunday's Easter Day bomb blasts at three Sri Lankan churches and three luxury hotels has left at least 359 people dead and around 500 injured.

Kiriella said information about possible suicide attacks was received from Indian intelligence April 4 and shared at a security council meeting chaired by President Sirisena three days later, but the information was not distributed more widely.

"It is a major lapse in the sharing of intelligence information," junior defense minister, Ruwan Wijewardene, told reporters. "We have to take responsibility," said the official.

A day after the bombings Hilmy Ahamed, vice president of the Muslim Council of Sri Lanka, told Bloomberg he had warned government officials about the National Thowheed Jamath (NTJ) and its likely plans to conduct an explosion on a public space. “I personally have gone and handed over all the documents three years ago, giving names and details of all these people. They have sat on it. That’s the tragedy,” Ahamed revealed Monday. 

The attacks were attributed to the local militant Islamist group. However, the scale and sophistication of the attacks prompted United States Ambassador to Sri Lanka Alaina Teplitz to suggest there was involvement from an external group such as Islamic State.

"If you look at the scale of the attacks, the level of coordination, the sophistication of them, it's not implausible to think there are foreign linkages," Teplitz told reporters in Colombo.

"Exploring potential linkages are going to be part of (investigations)," she said.

The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation and military were supporting the investigation, said the ambassador. Britain was also sending a team to help, the Sri Lankan government said.

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