Sri Lanka Easter Sunday bombers inspired by Islamic State, but had no direct link to terror group, claim investigators

Colombo: Sri Lanka's Easter attacks that killed more than 250 people were carried out by local groups who drew inspiration from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or IS) group, a top investigator said on Wednesday.

 Sri Lanka Easter Sunday bombers inspired by Islamic State, but had no direct link to terror group, claim investigators

File photo of Sri Lankan Navy soldiers guarding St. Anthony's Shrine in Colombo, which was one the sites of the blasts. AP.

Ravi Seneviratne, the head of Sri Lanka's Criminal Investigation Department (CID), said that the suicide bombers who targeted three churches and three hotels had no direct link to the foreign armed group, Al Jazeera reported. The investigator made the remarks in a meeting with the country's parliamentary panel investigating the security and intelligence lapses that led to the 21 April bombings. "They followed the IS ideology, but our investigations have not shown any link between them," Seneviratne told the parliamentary panel.

He noted that remnants of the National Thowheeth Jamath (NTJ), the armed group that was held responsible for the Easter attacks, had persuaded ISIL to claim the attack two days after the deadly events in Sri Lanka. NTJ leader Zahran Hashim made a video with fellow NTJ members pledging allegiance to ISIL leader Abu Bakr Al-Bagdadi. The video was released by ISIL two days later.

Sri Lanka's former police chief, Pujith Jayasundara, and former secretary to the Ministry of Defence, Hemasiri Fernando, are currently facing criminal charges over their alleged negligence in failing to prevent the attack. Several NTJ operatives were known to have travelled to India to meet with fellow extremists there, according to the Sri Lankan military.

Another investigator, Shani Abeysekara, told the same parliamentary panel that the CID found 105 kilogrammes of explosives from an NTJ hideout earlier this year. "If not for this discovery, they would have been able to cause much more damage," Abeysekara said, adding that they were already investigating the NTJ when the attacks took place.

In a statement last week, Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena alleged the attacks "were the work of international drug dealers" to sabotage his anti-narcotics drive.

Updated Date: Jul 25, 2019 13:09:00 IST