COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — Sri Lanka’s president has requested for the resignations of the protection secretary and nationwide police chief, a dramatic inside shake-up after safety forces shrugged off intelligence stories warning of attainable assaults earlier than Easter bombings that killed over 350 folks, the president’s workplace mentioned Wednesday.
It wasn’t instantly clear who could be changing them, however President Maithripala Sirisena mentioned throughout a televised speech Tuesday that he deliberate to alter the pinnacle of the protection forces inside 24 hours.
The Islamic State group has claimed accountability for the assaults, which struck Christians worshipping in three church buildings and folks at three luxurious inns. Authorities stay uncertain of its involvement, although many suspect skilled overseas militants have been advising, funding or guiding the attackers.
Sri Lanka’s junior protection minister has blamed breakaway members of two obscure native extremist Muslim teams, and mentioned lots of the suicide bombers have been extremely educated and got here from well-off households.
“Their considering is that Islam will be the one faith on this nation,” Ruwan Wijewardene advised reporters. “They’re fairly well-educated folks,” he mentioned, including that a minimum of one had a legislation diploma and a few could have studied within the UK and Australia.
Leaders have vowed to overtake the nation’s safety equipment after acknowledging that some intelligence models have been conscious of attainable assaults earlier than the Easter bombings.
U.S. Ambassador Alaina Teplitz advised reporters that “clearly there was some failure within the system,” however mentioned the U.S. had no prior information of a menace earlier than the assaults, the worst violence within the South Asian island nation since its civil warfare ended a decade in the past.
Teplitz referred to as that breakdown in communication “extremely tragic.”
Authorities statements concerning the assaults have been confused and typically contradictory, with police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekara telling reporters Wednesday that there have been 9 suicide bombers — two greater than officers mentioned someday earlier.
One of many further suicide bombers was the spouse of one other bomber, Gunasekara mentioned. The lady, two kids and three policemen died in an explosion as authorities closed in on her late Sunday, hours after assaults have been launched towards three church buildings and three inns. The ninth suicide bomber has not been recognized, although two extra suspects have been killed in a later explosion on the outskirts of Colombo.
Gunasekara mentioned 60 folks have been arrested up to now. A staff of FBI brokers and U.S. army officers have been serving to within the investigation, Teplitz mentioned.
Officers say all the important suicide bombers have been Sri Lankan.
“We’re conducting investigations in the meanwhile to see if there’s any direct hyperlink to any worldwide organizations,” Wijewardene mentioned.
The Islamic State group’s Aamaq information company launched a picture it mentioned confirmed the attackers’ chief standing amid seven others with lined faces. It offered no different proof for its declare.
The group, which has misplaced all of the territory it as soon as held in Iraq and Syria, has made a sequence of unsupported claims of accountability for numerous assaults all over the world.
Sri Lankan authorities had earlier blamed an area extremist group, Nationwide Towheed Jamaar, whose chief, alternately named Mohammed Zahran or Zahran Hashmi, turned identified to Muslim leaders three years in the past for his incendiary on-line speeches. On Wednesday, Wijewardene mentioned the attackers had damaged away from Nationwide Towheed Jamaar and one other group, which he recognized solely as “JMI.”
Teplitz declined to debate whether or not U.S. officers knew about Nationwide Towheed Jamaar or its chief earlier than the assault. “If we had heard one thing, we’d have tried to do one thing about this,” Teplitz mentioned.
The nation has been on heightened alert for the reason that assaults, with police setting off a sequence of managed explosions of suspicious objects. No extra bombs have been discovered Wednesday.
On Tuesday, in an handle to Parliament, Wijewardene mentioned “weak spot” inside Sri Lanka’s safety system had led to the failure to stop the bombings.
“By now it has been established that the intelligence models have been conscious of this assault and a gaggle of accountable folks have been knowledgeable concerning the impending assault,” Wijewardene mentioned. “Nonetheless, this data has been circulated amongst only some officers.”
In a reside handle to the nation late Tuesday, President Maithripala Sirisena mentioned he additionally was stored at nighttime on the intelligence concerning the deliberate assaults and vowed to “take stern motion” towards officers who didn’t share the knowledge. He additionally pledged “a whole restructuring” of the safety forces.
In the meantime, on Wednesday, Wijewardene additionally edged away from Tuesday feedback that the bombings have been retaliation for the March 15 mosque shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand, that killed 50 folks. He advised reporters Wednesday that the mosque assault could have been a motivation for the bombings, however that there was no direct proof of that.
An Australian white supremacist was arrested within the Christchurch shootings.
Whereas Sri Lanka’s current historical past has been rife with ethnic and sectarian battle, the Easter Sunday assaults got here as a shock.
Sri Lanka is dominated by Sinhalese Buddhists, however the nation of 21 million additionally has a major Tamil minority, most of whom are Hindu, Muslim or Christian.
Tamil Tiger rebels have been identified for staging suicide bombings throughout their 26-year civil warfare for independence, however faith had little function in that combating. The Tigers have been crushed by the federal government in 2009. Anti-Muslim bigotry fed by Buddhist nationalists has swept the nation for the reason that warfare ended however Sri Lanka has no historical past of Islamic militancy. Its small Christian group has seen solely scattered incidents of harassment.
Related Press journalists Bharatha Mallawarachi and Jon Gambrell contributed to this report.