Sri Lankan president Maithripala Sirisena on Wednesday (24) asked defence secretary Hemasiri Fernando and Inspector General of Police Pujith Jayasundara to resign over their failure to prevent the blasts in the country on Easter Sunday despite receiving prior intelligence, Press Trust of India (PTI) reported.
On Tuesday (23), Sirisena had pledged to make changes in senior positions in the security establishment within 24 hours, saying that citizens were questioning why action had not been taken by the top security officials.
Earlier in the day, state minister of defence Ruwan Wijewardene said that nine bombers, including a woman, had detonated explosives on Easter Sunday, Reuters reported. Eight of the terrorists have been identified. At least 359 people have died so far in the attacks.
Wijewardene acknowledged that there had been “major lapses” in the security arrangements. “We [The government] have to take the responsibility,” he said, according to PTI. “Some of them [the attackers], in earlier incidents, had been taken into custody [after] small skirmishes, but nothing of this magnitude.” He said intelligence suggested that the attackers were motivated by the Christchurch shootings.
He added that the attacks were carried out not by the National Tawheed Jamath but by a splinter group, adaderana.lk reported. The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the serial bomb blasts. However, the group did not provide any evidence of its involvement.
“We believe that one of the suicide bombers studied in the United Kingdom and later did a postgraduate in Australia before coming back to settle in Sri Lanka,” Wijewardene said. “This group has defaced Buddhist statues and attacked some temples and a church as well, but not to this magnitude.”
The minister added that the authorities have uncovered two safe houses where the terrorists resided, one in Negombo and another in Panadura. “Our intelligence had been briefed about the possible attacks,” he said. “Certain officials had been notified about the possible attacks. Due to some lapses in security arrangements, most of the officials were not notified, including me.”