Interpol set to join investigation into deadly Sri Lanka attacks
Interpol announced it was deploying a team to Sri Lanka to assist authorities with the investigation and identify potential international connections.Updated: Apr 23, 2019 12:29 IST
Sri Lanka has declared a national day of mourning as the death toll from Sunday’s deadly blasts reached 310 and the Interpol joined the investigation into how a local terrorist group managed to carry out the coordinated series of attacks.
Interpol announced it was deploying a team to Sri Lanka to assist authorities with the investigation and identify potential international connections. The team includes specialists in crime scene examination, explosives, counter-terrorism, disaster victim identification and analysis.
‘The intelligence agencies have reported that there were international organizations behind these acts of local terrorists,’ President Maithripala Sirisena said in a statement. ‘Hence, it has been decided to seek international assistance for investigations.’
The government blamed local jihadist group National Thowheed Jamath for the carnage, and said other nations had shared intelligence ahead of the blasts. Seven suicide bombers carried out the Easter Sunday assault on churches and luxury hotels, targeting Christians and foreign tourists, it said.
Over 40 suspects were in custody, national police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera said Tuesday.
An an internal police memo dated April 11 warned a group called National Thowheed Jamath planned to bomb Catholic churches and the Indian High Commission, cabinet minister Harin Fernando tweeted soon after the attack. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said authorities had received warnings but “not enough attention had been paid.”
‘There had been several warnings from foreign intelligence agencies about the impending attacks,’ Sri Lanka’s Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne said at press conference in Colombo on Monday. ‘Persons named in intelligence reports are among those arrested. Some named in the reports had died during attacks. We are now investigating international support for the group and their other links.’
A special emergency parliament session is due to convene at 1p.m. local time, with the country’s leaders still deeply divided after six months of political infighting that’s left the economy struggling.
Last October, former strongman Mahinda Rajapaksa was suddenly appointed prime minister by President Maithripala Sirisena, leading to a constitutional crisis. Wickremesinghe, the deposed prime minister, was reinstated in December after a Supreme Court decision.
Sri Lanka confirmed that 31 foreigners who died in the attacks had been identified -- including citizens of India, Portugal, France, Turkey, Australia, Japan, the U.K. and U.S. -- and said 14 foreigners were still unaccounted for. Most were targeted at the Shangri-La, Kingsbury and Cinnamon Grand hotels in the capital.
President Trump called Wickremesinghe to pledge U.S. support “in bringing the perpetrators to justice,” White House said in a statement overnight.
Chinese citizens were warned against traveling to Sri Lanka, the embassy said in a statement on its website.
Billionaire fashion tycoon Anders Holch Povlsen, Denmark’s wealthiest man, lost three of his four children, the Press Association reported, citing Jesper Stubkier, communications manager for Holch Povlsen’s wholesale fashion business Bestseller.
The terrorist attack was a marked shift from the brutal conflict between the predominately Buddhist Sinhalese majority and mostly Hindu Tamil minority that fueled a three-decade civil war that ended a decade ago.
Catholics, split between the Sinhalese and Tamils, make up 6.5 percent of Sri Lanka’s population, according to the nation’s 2012 census. Buddhists account for 70 percent of the total, while Hindus and Muslims make up the rest.
In the early 1980s, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam -- known as the Tamil Tigers -- began fighting for an independent homeland in the north and east of Sri Lanka. The conflict, marked by the use of child soldiers and human-rights violations on both sides, killed more than 100,000 people before former Rajapaksa’s government won a decisive victory in 2009.
To contact the reporter on this story: Anusha Ondaatjie in Colombo at email@example.com