This week, Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena asked two of the country’s top national security officials, Police Chief Pujith Jayasundara and Defense Secretary Hemasiri Fernando, to resign amid accusations that terror groups had infiltrated the government.
The Sri Lankan government has accused the country’s intelligence chiefs of blatantly ignoring multiple warnings about the local ISIS-affiliated terror group for months leading up to last week’s bombings, and it appears that double-agent intelligence officials could have prevented this information from being properly investigated. Reports have indicated that more high ranking officials are expected to be fired when it is determined who is responsible for the security failure.
The group was reported by neighbors on multiple occasions, and there were even police officials attempting to sound the alarm about the potential danger, but these warnings were ignored. Now, in the wake of the tragic bombings, suspicion is being cast on government officials for intentionally turning a blind eye to the terror cell.
On April 11, just ten days before the attack, a high ranking police official issued an intelligence report warning that the local radical group could be targeting local churches for potential suicide bombings. Over the past several years, Hilmy Ahamed, vice president of the Muslim Council of Sri Lanka, alerted intelligence officials about the group at least three different times, most recently in February.
Warnings even came in to Sri Lankan intelligence officials on the day of the bombings. Just hours before the attacks, the government of India reportedly warned Sri Lankan officials that a terror attack was imminent.
Lakshman Kiriella, minister of public enterprise in Sri Lanka, told parliament this week that high ranking intelligence officials intentionally covered up information warning about the attacks.
“Some top intelligence officials hid the intelligence information purposefully. Information was there, but the top brass security officials did not take appropriate actions. Somebody is controlling these top intelligence officials. The Security Council is doing politics. We need to investigate into this,” Kiriella said, according to Reuters.
The perpetrators of the attack were connected to the wealthy spice trader Mohammed Yusuf Ibrahim. Two of Ibrahim’s sons were both suicide bombers in the Easter Sunday attacks—the family’s connection to the bombings has shocked their community.
Ibrahim was popular and well-liked in his neighborhood and would regularly hold parties in which hundreds of people would attend—including high ranking government officials.
“It was a single terror cell operated by one family. They had the cash and the motivation. They operated the cell and it is believed they influenced their extended family,” an investigator told the AFP under the condition of anonymity.
“What we have gathered so far is that they had indicated to their close family what they were going to do. It looks like they were inspired by foreign terrorist groups, but to what extent they had direct links is still unclear,” another police official said.
The terror cell lived in Mohammed Yusuf Ibrahim’s massive home, which took up nearly an entire city block. Mohammed Yusuf Ibrahim was arrested along with 60 others, but it is not clear what role he played in the attacks or what type of knowledge he had of the terror cell. Many more arrests are expected as the Sri Lankan government has imposed emergency powers and is searching homes across the island nation.
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