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AFP
April 25, 2019

Sri Lanka admits ‘major’ lapse over deadly blasts

World

AFP
April 25, 2019

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka’s government on Wednesday acknowledged “major” lapses over its failure to prevent the horrific Easter attacks that killed more than 350 people, despite prior intelligence warnings. Recriminations have flown since Islamist suicide bombers blew themselves up in packed churches and luxury hotels on Sunday, in attacks claimed by the Islamic State group.

Overnight, security forces using newly granted powers under the country’s state of emergency arrested 18 more suspects in connection with the attack, as the toll rose to 359. CNN reported that Indian intelligence services had passed on “unusually specific” information in the weeks before the attacks, some of it from an IS suspect in their custody. But that information was not shared with the prime minister or other top ministers, the government says. “It was a major lapse in the sharing of information,” deputy defence minister Ruwan Wijewardene conceded at a press conference on Wednesday.

Zahran Hashim: radical Islamist linked to Sri Lanka blasts: For years, Sri Lanka’s Muslim community warned authorities about a firebrand cleric. Now it seems Zahran Hashim may have played a key role in one of the worst attacks in the country’s history.

A video released by the Islamic State group after it claimed responsibility for bombs that killed 359 people, appears to prominently feature Hashim. The round-faced cleric is the only one of the eight figures whose face is uncovered. Dressed in a black tunic and headscarf, and carrying a rifle, Hashim is seen in the IS video leading seven people in a pledge of allegiance to the group’s chief Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi.

The other seven all wear the same black tunics but their faces are obscured by black-and-white chequered scarves. Sri Lanka’s government has accused Hashim indirectly, saying the Islamist group he was believed to lead — the National Thowheeth Jama’ath — carried out the attacks. Hashim was identified, albeit with his name misspelled as Hashmi, by police as heading NTJ. The IS video was the first concrete evidence of the apparently central role played by Hashim in the Easter attacks.

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