Easter Sunday attacks could have been averted: Investigator

Colombo: Sri Lanka’s Easter Sunday attacks that killed 258 people could have been averted had there been a better coordination among the security agencies, a parliamentary panel was told by a top investigator on Thursday.

Nine suicide bombers attacked three churches and as many luxury hotels on April 21, in the country’s worst terror attacks.

The ISIS terror group claimed the attacks, but the government blamed the local Islamist extremist group National Thawheed Jammath (NTJ for the bombings.

Senior Deputy Inspector General in charge of the of the police’s Special Task Force (STF MR Latheef said the bombings could have been averted had there been a better coordination among the security agencies.

“We could have sent men to the churches and hotels. Our presence alone could have disrupted the plans of the attackers,” Latheef told the panel.

The panel is probing the alleged negligence by the security agencies on the prior intelligence received on the attacks.

The same panel was told Wednesday that ISIS had no direct hand in the suicide bombings which killed 258 people and injured hundreds others.

Senior police official Ravi Seneviratne, the head of the Crime Investigation Department, was testified before the panel on Wednesday.

Seneviratne said the NTJ had asked the ISIS through a third party to issue a statement on the attacks.

“That apart, we have no evidence that ISIS was linked to this group. They were inspired by ISIS,” Seneviratne said.

Seneviratne said the prior intelligence received on the attacks was conveyed to the police chief on April 9, 12 days before the attack.

“Several names mentioned in the report were already been investigated by us. This was the reason why we were able to arrest them almost immediately after the attacks,” Seneviratne said.

He said on April 20, on the eve of the attacks, “the State Intelligence Chief had informed me on the possibility of the attacks”.

President Maithripala Sirisena sent on compulsory leave the then police chief Pujith Jayasundera and called for the resignation of the then top defence ministry bureaucrat Hemasiri Fernando for their alleged lack of action. Both were arrested on charges of crimes against humanity.

Sirisena has taken exceon to the parliamentary probe and has accused it of publicly humiliating the national intelligence apparatus.