Sri Lanka Easter bombings: police chief resigns as Sirisena points to security establishment’s failure

Top officials have acknowledged that Sri Lanka received intelligence about possible terror strikes, but both Mr. Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said that they did not receive the information.

April 26, 2019 02:39 pm | Updated 05:44 pm IST - Colombo

Sri Lanka police chief Pujith Jayasundara

Sri Lanka police chief Pujith Jayasundara

Sri Lanka’s police chief resigned from his post on Friday, two days after President Maithripala Sirisena asked him to step down over the security establishment’s failure to avert the deadly Easter bombings.

Mr. Sirisena said Inspector General of Police Pujith Jayasundara resigned over failures that led to the attacks on three hotels and three churches on Sunday claiming 253 lives .

“The IGP has resigned. He has sent in his resignation to the acting defense secretary. I’ll nominate a new IGP soon,” the President said.

The police chief’s resignation came a day after the country’s defence secretary Hemasiri Fernando handed over his resignation letter to the President .

Mr. Sirisena said the intelligence supplied by a friendly nation was not shared with him by officials. “All they have done was to exchange letters among themselves,” he said.

“I asked both the police chief and the defence secretary why the information was not shared with me and why they remained silent,” he said.

Weakening of intelligence operations

The security lapse was also due to the current government’s weakening of intelligence operations. This was a reference to the arrest and trials against a handful of military intelligence officers who were responsible for attacks and murder of journalists, abductions and ransom taking, he said.

He said the power struggle in his government was because he had objected to the government’s weakening of the security forces. He would soon set up a joint operations command to combat terror and each and every house would be checked for the safety of all citizens.

Top officials have acknowledged that Sri Lanka received intelligence about possible terror strikes, but both Mr. Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said that they did not receive the information.

Nine suicide bombers carried out a series of devastating blasts that tore through three churches and three luxury hotels on Easter Sunday.

The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the attacks, but the government has blamed local Islamist extremist group National Tawheed Jamath (NTJ) for the attacks.

The President also confirmed that Sri Lankan Islamist extremist Zahran Hashim , the leader of the NTJ, died in the blast at the Shangri-La hotel.

Hashim led the attack on the hotel and was accompanied by a second bomber, Ilham Ahmed Ibrahim.

The President appealed to the nation not to view its minority Muslim community as terrorists in the wake of the attacks. He said that despite the attacks, the island’s nine per cent Muslim minority must not be regarded terrorists.

'No law to ban National Tawheed Jamath'

“We looked into banning the NTJ but we do not have laws to do that right now. We have to draft new laws. We will get this done soon,” he said.

“Information is that around 130-140 ISIS suspects are in the country. Around 70 are arrested, we will arrest them all very soon ending this [terror],” he said.

Police said that over 70 suspects, including five women, have been arrested as the authorities intensified the search operations with the help of the army.

Prayers cancelled

Today’s prayers were cancelled as Muslim theology group Jammiyyathul Ulama asked people to pray indoors.

Colombo and its immediate suburbs looked deserted in the morning. Most offices have allowed employees to work from home.

“During the last 24 hours there have been no incidents reported,” military spokesperson Brigadier Sumith Atapattu said.

The army would continue search operations for suspects linked to the terror group, he said.

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