At least 10,000 people knew in advance of the Easter attacks

Sri Lanka’s former intelligence chief reveals that the services had prior knowledge of the attacks of 21 April 2019 against churches and hotels, which left about 280 people dead and almost 600 more wounded. Foreign embassies and intelligence services had also been informed. The then president Sirisena was warned of the danger of the Islamist group blamed for the attacks.

Colombo (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Sri Lanka’s intelligence services were aware of a possible terrorist attack during Easter 2019. As a result, about 10,000 people, including 8,000 police officers in the Western Province, had been informed of the situation.

Nilantha Jayawardena, director of the State Intelligence Service (SIS) at the time of the attacks, yesterday told the special Presidential Commission of Inquiry into Easter Sunday attacks that reports about a possible terrorist operation had been obtained as early as 4 April.

On 21 April 2019, a group of terrorists bombed two Catholic and one Protestant churches and three hotels, killing 280 people, including 45 foreigners, and wounding almost nearly 600 more.

The authorities blamed the National Thowheed Jamaat (NTJ), an Islamist extremist organisation, and its leader Zahran Hashim, for the massacre.

Questioned by Shamil Perera PC, who appeared on behalf of Archbishop Card Malcolm Ranjith of Colombo, Jayawardena said that his agency had informed foreign embassies and intelligence services before 20 April.

Jayawardena then explained that the then president Maithripala Sirisena had been warned of the danger posed by Zahran as early as January 2019. Despite this, he did not order his arrest.

According to the former intelligence chief, Sirisena only asked why the Islamic extremist had not yet been captured.