Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 14 October 2019

Sri Lanka orders new probe into Easter suicide bombings

The government has blamed a local group for the April 21 attacks on three churches and three luxury hotels

TOPSHOT - A soldier walks in front of St. Anthony's Shrine in Colombo on April 26, 2019, following a series of bomb blasts targeting churches and luxury hotels on Easter Sunday in Sri Lanka. Authorities in Sri Lanka on April 25 lowered the death toll in a spate of Easter bombings by more than 100 to 253, admitting some of the badly mutilated bodies had been erroneously double-counted. / AFP / Jewel SAMAD
TOPSHOT - A soldier walks in front of St. Anthony's Shrine in Colombo on April 26, 2019, following a series of bomb blasts targeting churches and luxury hotels on Easter Sunday in Sri Lanka. Authorities in Sri Lanka on April 25 lowered the death toll in a spate of Easter bombings by more than 100 to 253, admitting some of the badly mutilated bodies had been erroneously double-counted. / AFP / Jewel SAMAD

The Sri Lankan government on Sunday ordered a new investigation into the deadly Easter Sunday bombings on three churches and three luxury hotels after complaints that the initial investigations are not sufficiently independent.

President Maithripala Sirisena ordered the new enquiries after concerns by the Catholic Church, which bore part of the brunt of the co-ordinated plot claimed by ISIS.

The attacks left at least 258 people dead. The government and the security services faced widespread condemnation after revelations that those accused of the plot were well-known to them and that complaints had been made by the Muslim community.

The government has blamed a local extremist group, the National Thowheeth Jama'ath for the April 21 assault.

Mr Sirisena said the commission has wide judicial powers to gather evidence on those responsible for the bombings, and to probe security and intelligence lapses.

The five-member panel is headed by a Court of Appeal judge. The rest are three other judges and a retired civil servant. It is to report back with recommendations within three months.

The inquiry was launched amid fears voiced by the country's Catholic Church that a parliamentary probe and police investigation into the attacks are not sufficiently independent.

While the newly launched inquiry is being carried out by a cross-section of MPs, many opposition members are boycotting it. They say the commission is being used by political parties to deflect any responsibility in failing to stop the attacks.

Mr Sirisena, who is also the minister in charge of law and order, said that all those responsible for the attacks were either killed or are under arrest.

A parliamentary public inquiry has heard evidence from intelligence and senior police officials that Mr Sirisena neglected national security issues and failed to convene regular national security council meetings.

The president has also been accused of failing to act on precise Indian intelligence that extremists were about to hit Christian churches and other targets in Sri Lanka.

Mr Sirisena has denied the accusations, and sacked his top defence official and the intelligence chief after blaming them for the lapses.

The Police chief, Pujith Jayasundara, was also suspended, and he — along with the secretary to the ministry of defence — are facing criminal prosecution over their failure to prevent the bombings.

Updated: September 22, 2019 04:18 PM

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