COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — Sri Lanka’s president has requested for the resignations of the protection secretary and nationwide police chief, a dramatic inside shake-up after safety forces shrugged off intelligence reviews warning of doable assaults earlier than Easter bombings that killed over 350 individuals, the president’s workplace stated Wednesday.
It wasn’t instantly clear who could be changing them, however President Maithripala Sirisena stated throughout a televised speech Tuesday that he deliberate to alter the top of the protection forces inside 24 hours.
The Islamic State group has claimed duty for the assaults, which struck Christians worshipping in three church buildings and folks at three luxurious inns. Authorities stay not sure of its involvement, although many suspect skilled international militants had been advising, funding or guiding the attackers.
Sri Lanka’s junior protection minister has blamed breakaway members of two obscure native extremist Muslim teams, and stated lots of the suicide bombers had been extremely educated and got here from well-off households.
“Their pondering is that Islam may be the one faith on this nation,” Ruwan Wijewardene instructed reporters. “They’re fairly well-educated individuals,” he stated, including that at the very least one had a regulation diploma and a few could have studied within the UK and Australia.
Leaders have vowed to overtake the nation’s safety equipment after acknowledging that some intelligence items had been conscious of doable assaults earlier than the Easter bombings.
U.S. Ambassador Alaina Teplitz instructed reporters that “clearly there was some failure within the system,” however stated the U.S. had no prior information of a menace earlier than the assaults, the worst violence within the South Asian island nation since its civil struggle ended a decade in the past.
Teplitz referred to as that breakdown in communication “extremely tragic.”
Authorities statements in regards to the assaults have been confused and generally contradictory, with police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekara telling reporters Wednesday that there have been 9 suicide bombers — two greater than officers stated sooner or later earlier.
One of many further suicide bombers was the spouse of one other bomber, Gunasekara stated. The lady, two kids and three policemen died in an explosion as authorities closed in on her late Sunday, hours after assaults had been launched in opposition to three church buildings and three inns. The ninth suicide bomber has not been recognized, although two extra suspects had been killed in a later explosion on the outskirts of Colombo.
Gunasekara stated 60 individuals have been arrested up to now. A workforce of FBI brokers and U.S. navy officers had been serving to within the investigation, Teplitz stated.
Officers say the entire principal suicide bombers had been Sri Lankan.
“We’re conducting investigations in the meanwhile to see if there may be any direct hyperlink to any worldwide organizations,” Wijewardene stated.
The Islamic State group’s Aamaq information company launched a picture it stated confirmed the attackers’ chief standing amid seven others with coated faces. It offered no different proof for its declare.
The group, which has misplaced all of the territory it as soon as held in Iraq and Syria, has made a collection of unsupported claims of duty for numerous assaults all over the world.
Sri Lankan authorities had earlier blamed an area extremist group, Nationwide Towheed Jamaar, whose chief, alternately named Mohammed Zahran or Zahran Hashmi, grew to become identified to Muslim leaders three years in the past for his incendiary on-line speeches. On Wednesday, Wijewardene stated the attackers had damaged away from Nationwide Towheed Jamaar and one other group, which he recognized solely as “JMI.”
Teplitz declined to debate whether or not U.S. officers knew about Nationwide Towheed Jamaar or its chief earlier than the assault. “If we had heard one thing, we’d have tried to do one thing about this,” Teplitz stated.
The nation has been on heightened alert because the assaults, with police setting off a collection of managed explosions of suspicious objects. No extra bombs had been discovered Wednesday.
On Tuesday, in an deal with to Parliament, Wijewardene stated “weak spot” inside Sri Lanka’s safety system had led to the failure to forestall the bombings.
“By now it has been established that the intelligence items had been conscious of this assault and a bunch of accountable individuals had been knowledgeable in regards to the impending assault,” Wijewardene stated. “Nonetheless, this data has been circulated amongst just a few officers.”
In a dwell deal with to the nation late Tuesday, President Maithripala Sirisena stated he additionally was saved at nighttime on the intelligence in regards to the deliberate assaults and vowed to “take stern motion” in opposition to officers who didn’t share the knowledge. He additionally pledged “a whole restructuring” of the safety forces.
In the meantime, on Wednesday, Wijewardene additionally edged away from Tuesday feedback that the bombings had been retaliation for the March 15 mosque shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand, that killed 50 individuals. He instructed reporters Wednesday that the mosque assault could have been a motivation for the bombings, however that there was no direct proof of that.
An Australian white supremacist was arrested within the Christchurch shootings.
Whereas Sri Lanka’s current historical past has been rife with ethnic and sectarian battle, the Easter Sunday assaults got here as a shock.
Sri Lanka is dominated by Sinhalese Buddhists, however the nation of 21 million additionally has a big Tamil minority, most of whom are Hindu, Muslim or Christian.
Tamil Tiger rebels had been identified for staging suicide bombings throughout their 26-year civil struggle for independence, however faith had little position in that preventing. The Tigers had been crushed by the federal government in 2009. Anti-Muslim bigotry fed by Buddhist nationalists has swept the nation because the struggle ended however Sri Lanka has no historical past of Islamic militancy. Its small Christian neighborhood has seen solely scattered incidents of harassment.
Related Press journalists Bharatha Mallawarachi and Jon Gambrell contributed to this report.