Colombo, April 22 (newsin.asia): India had warned Sri Lanka about imminent strikes suicide bombers twice this month – the first warning having been given on April 4 and the second on April 11, informed Sri Lankan sources said. Foreign agencies reported that Interpol will be sending a team to Sri Lanka to help Sri Lankan investigators to get to the bottom of the crime.
An Indian source said that the Indian High Commission had shared information they had with the Sri Lankan government. He declined to give details.
Harin Fernando, a cabinet minister, circulated an internal security memo dated earlier this month that warned the group was “getting ready for suicide attacks on popular Catholic churches and the Indian High Commission.
” It also said the group’s members were “inciting hatred” among online followers.”
Unconfirmed reports identified the suicide bomber and mastermind behind the attack on the Shangri La hotel as Islamic extremist Moulvi Zahran Hashim. An imam, he was a prolific lecturer for National Tawheed Jamaath.
CNN reported that Hashim also wanted to attack the Indian High Commission in Colombo earlier this month, but the attack was thwarted. According to the CNN report, that attack was planned for April 4.
Security for the Indian High Commission has since been beefed up.
Why Intelligence Was Ignored
The standoff between President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe had been one of the reasons for non-action on the intelligence input from India as well the local police.
Since the President was away on a pilgrimage in Thirupathi (India) on Sunday, Prime Minister Wickremesinghe wanted to convene a meeting of the National Security Council (NSC). According to the cabinet spokesman, Dr.Rajitha Senaratne, a meeting was fixed but the members of the NSC did not turn up for it.
The Prime Minister then went to the Defense Ministry to talk to the concerned officials. But he was made to wait there for 20 minutes. President Sirisena, who is opposed to Wickremesinghe, holds the Defense portfolio and NSC members go by his wishes.
Dr. Senaratne regretted that Wickremesinghe , who had been a member of the NSC since 1987, could not call a meeting of the NSC and that had to go looking for NSC members in the Defense ministry.
Meanwhile, the Sri Lankan Special Task Force (STF) has been defusing Improvised Explosive Devices through controlled explosions in several parts of Colombo city.
A parcel bomb left in a van parked near the Kochikade church which was attacked on Sunday, was defused on Monday. The controlled blast was misinterpreted as a terrorist attack by the media. A vehicle parked in the same area exploded when the STF tried to dispose of a bomb in it. There were no injuries.
87 pipe bombs were discovered near the Colombo airport on Sunday.
Given the number of explosives discovered it appears that the terror group involved had planned a major mayhem with casualties running into several hundreds.
Nine persons, who were arrested earlier for the bombing of Shangri-La hotel on Sunday, have been remanded till May 6.
Interpol To Join Investigations
Interpol is deploying a team of investigators, including experts in disaster victim identification, to Sri Lanka to help local authorities in the aftermath of deadly suicide bomb blasts that killed nearly 300 people, the international police organisation said Monday.
Sri Lanka said Monday it believed a local extremist group named National Thowheeth Jama’ath (NTJ) was behind the attacks and said it would look at whether the group had international support.
Interpol said it was deploying an Incident Response Team (IRT) at the request of the Sri Lanka authorities, including specialists with expertise in crime scene examination, explosives, counter-terror and victim identification.
“If required, additional expertise in digital forensics, biometrics, as well as photo and video analysis will also be added to the team on the ground,” it added.
Interpol Secretary General Juergen Stock said the organisation will “continue to provide whatever support is necessary.”
“Information to help identify individuals linked to these attacks could come from anywhere in the world, which is where Interpol’s global network and databases can prove vital, especially for officers on the ground,” he said.
The death toll from Sunday’s attacks rose dramatically Monday to 290 — including dozens of foreigners — in the country’s worst attacks for over a decade.
More than 500 people were injured in the assault that saw suicide bombers hit three high-end hotels popular with foreign tourists, and three churches, unleashing carnage in Colombo and beyond.