Sri Lanka president Maithripala Sirisena sacks intel boss over Easter bombings probe
Sri Lanka’s president Maithripala Sirisena sacked the country’s intelligence chief Sisira Mendis on Friday after the latter testified against the government in the Easter Sunday bombings probe by a parliamentary select committee, officials familiar with the developments said ahead of a visit to the island nation by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday.
Conflicting reports emerged earlier on Saturday on whether Mendis had resigned or he had been sacked. Top Indian intelligence officials said information shared at the highest level between the two countries indicated that Mendis was sacked after Sri Lankan agencies failed to act on specific inputs about the terror plot.
India alerted Sri Lanka on April 4, 10, 16 (the day an explosive device was tested by the terrorists on a bicycle), 20 and 21 (hours before the bombings were executed) and the intelligence inputs identified the possible targets, including two churches that came under attack, officials in New Delhi said, adding that authorities in the island nation failed to act on the same.
After the attacks, Indian agencies informed their Sri Lankan counterparts of the arrest of the key plotter of the bombing at Shangri La hotel by Saudi police, the officials cited above said.
The April 21 attacks killed 258 people. Mendis reportedly pinned the blame for the failure to prevent the attacks on government inaction. He said the president had failed to hold regular security meetings to assess the threat from Islamic radicals who carried out the bombings.
Sirisena’s office did not give a reason for the sacking. Halfway through the testimony, the live telecast of the proceedings was stopped on the president’s orders, officials said in Colombo.
A source told AFP that Sirisena refused to allow any police, military or intelligence personnel to testify before the committee.
Sirisena’s defence secretary and police chief have suggested that he did not follow proper protocols in dealing with intelligence warnings about the bombings. Sirisena has denied he was aware of an impending threat.
A local jihadist organisation, NTJ, and the IS group claimed responsibility for the attacks.