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Maithripala Sirisena admits Sri Lanka govt is 'responsible' for Easter Sunday attacks due to lapses in communicating intel inputs

Sri Lanka president Maithripala Sirisena on Friday admitted that his government is "responsible" for security lapses that led to the 21 April Easter Sunday attacks in which over 250 were killed and hundreds were injured.

"Government should take responsibility for this unfortunate incident as well as for weakening country's intelligence services," he was quoted by local media as saying.

The toll was revised recently, lowering the number of dead by 100. The dramatic revision of the toll is a grim indicator of the power of the deadly blasts. The force of the explosions so badly mutilated bodies that parts of victims were wrongly collated and identified in the initial confusion, officials said.

 Maithripala Sirisena admits Sri Lanka govt is responsible for Easter Sunday attacks due to lapses in communicating intel inputs

File photo of Sri Lankan president Maithripala Sirisena. AFP

"Many of the victims were badly mutilated... There was double counting," the health ministry said in explaining the new death toll of 253, down from 359 announced on Wednesday. Health Ministry director general Anil Jasinghe said the "very complex nature of the human remains" made it hard for forensic experts to initially compile an accurate toll. He claimed the slip in security arrangements were due to a "lapse in the communication of intelligence inputs".

Sirisena also appealed to the island nation not to view its minority Muslim community as terrorists in the wake of the deadly blasts that officials say was carried out by a local Muslim extremist group.

Speaking to reporters, Sirisena said that Sri Lanka has the capability “to completely control Islamic State activities” in the country, referring to the Islamic State group, which has officially claimed responsibility for the bombings that killed at least 250 people.

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

State Minister of Defence Ruwan Wijewardene, addressing a press conference, accepted that there had been "major" lapses in the security arrangements. "We (the government) have to take the responsibility. The president (Maithripala Sirisena) is planning to make some changes in the security establishments," he said.

"Some of them (the attackers), in earlier incidents, had been taken into custody (after) small skirmishes, but nothing of this magnitude," Wijewardene said. Sri Lankan and international media reported that India and the US provided specific warnings about terror attacks to Sri Lanka, ahead of the Easter Sunday bombings.

Sirisena on Tuesday assured the nation that he would take steps to curtail terrorism and bring back normalcy swiftly. He said that he will make some immediate changes in the high security positions as there was negligence in carrying out responsibilities.

The President said that since 2017, there were intelligence information about the emergence of terrorist groups and the fact that some of them were receiving training in foreign countries. "Our security services kept a close vigilance on these groups," Sirisena said. He acknowledged that there were lapses on the part of defence authorities.

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Although there was intelligence report about these attacks, he was not informed about them, he said. Sirisena said that though there were intelligence reports about possible terrorist cells, no legal action could be taken with normal laws without sufficient evidence.

Nine suicide bombers, including a woman, were involved in the massive Easter Sunday bombings that killed at least 250 people, a top police officer said. So far 60 people have been arrested in connection with the attacks, police spokesman Ruwan Guansekera said, adding that more than 500 people have been injured in the bombings.

The National Tawheed Jamath (NTJ) has been named as the perpetrators by the government, but it has not claimed responsibility for the attacks. The Islamic State terror group has claimed responsibility for the devastating Easter blasts in Sri Lanka and identified the suicide bombers who were involved in the attacks.

The suicide bombers carried out a series of devastating blasts that tore through churches and luxury hotels in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday, in the country's worst terror attack.

With inputs from PTI and AP

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Updated Date: Apr 27, 2019 22:28:28 IST