COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — Seven suicide bombers from a local Muslim group, National Thowheed Jammath, attacked three churches and three luxury hotels in the worst violence by the Islamic State group-linked militants in South Asia.
Following the attack, national police chief Pujith Jayasundara was suspended and former Defense Secretary Hemasiri Fernando resigned. Both were arrested last week for alleged criminal negligence and later released on bail.
Lawmaker Anura Dissanayaka, the leader of the Peoples’ Liberation Front, said the attacks occurred because the government failed to fulfill its responsibility. “People have no confidence in this government and the public is fed up,” he said.
Minister of Economic Reforms Harsha de Silva rejected the allegation. “If we knew about it, we would have taken preventive measures. We would not have allowed it to happen.”
Sri Lankan leaders and the security establishment are under fire for not acting on near-specific intelligence information on possible attacks on churches. Government leaders have acknowledged that some intelligence units were aware of possible attacks weeks before the bombings.
President Maithripala Sirisena has said he had been kept in the dark on intelligence about the planned attacks and vowed to “take stern action” against officials who failed to share it.
A parliamentary committee is looking into intelligence failures despite objections by Sirisena after some officials hinted at shortcomings by the president, who is also the defense minister and minister of police.