Easter bombings: Sri Lanka probes charges against spy agencies

President orders investigation into allegations that some intelligence officials knew and met with people who carried out 2019 bombings.

Sri Lanka bombings
A view of St Sebastian's Church damaged in the Easter Sunday bombings, in Negombo, north of Colombo [File: Chamila Karunarathne/AP]

Sri Lanka’s President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has ordered an investigation into allegations that some members of state intelligence agencies knew and met with people who carried out Easter Sunday bombings in 2019 that killed more than 260 people, a government official said.

The Catholic Church in Sri Lanka wrote to the president on Tuesday raising concerns about the government’s handling of the suicide bombings and asking it to investigate alleged links between intelligence personnel and the group that carried out the attacks.

Two local Muslim groups that had allegedly declared allegiance to the ISIL (ISIS) group carried out six coordinated attacks on churches and leading tourist hotels, killing 269 people.

Another man did not carry out a planned attack at a fourth tourist hotel but killed himself later by exploding the bomb at a different location.

The letter from the National Catholic Committee for Justice to Easter Sunday Attack Victims, a group of bishops and priests led by Archbishop of Colombo Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, called on the president to take legal action against former President Maithripala Sirisena for negligence as recommended by a presidential inquiry commission report.

Sirisena’s government came under heavy criticism for not acting on near-specific foreign intelligence warnings that an attack was imminent.

Media Minister Keheliya Rambukwella on Wednesday said all of the findings of the commission have been handed over to proper authorities.

“There are so many things flowing in and the best thing the president can do is to refer them to relevant authorities,” Rambukwella said.

“The president has referred all of them to relevant authorities for further action.”

The church group also said former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe should be investigated because the report concluded that his soft approach to “Islamic extremism” had led to the attacks.

The letter also said authorities have not taken legal action against 11 police officers, two officials from the Attorney General’s Department and two Muslim politicians named by the commission.

Several legislators have spoken in parliament, citing witnesses who appeared before the commission as saying that members of state intelligence agencies met with the man who withdrew from the initial attack before committing suicide.

The letter from church officials cited speeches in parliament as saying that intelligence personnel allegedly had a suspect in police custody released.

The presidential commission report has not been released to the public. A single volume was given to legislators and the entire report was provided to the Attorney General’s Department for prosecution.

Source: AP