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Sri Lanka to charge police for ‘lapses’ over Easter attacks

Police officers work at the scene at St Sebastian Catholic Church, after bomb blasts ripped through churches and luxury hotels on Easter, in Negambo, Sri Lanka April 22, 2019. — Reuters pic
Police officers work at the scene at St Sebastian Catholic Church, after bomb blasts ripped through churches and luxury hotels on Easter, in Negambo, Sri Lanka April 22, 2019. — Reuters pic

COLOMBO, June 20 — Sri Lankan authorities today ordered the first criminal charges against security personnel for “lapses” before the Easter Sunday suicide bombings that killed 258 people.

Nine police officers will face “criminal investigations” for failing to act on warnings ahead of the April 21 bombings on three churches and three hotels carried out by Islamic State-backed jihadists.

In a notice ordering the probe, Attorney-General Dappula de Livera said an inquiry commission appointed by President Maithripala Sirisena had found the officers liable for criminal negligence.

All nine were senior officers in the districts where the attacks were carried out.

Authorities have admitted that warnings sent by neighbouring India of an impending attack by a local group, the National Thowheeth Jama’ath (NTJ) were ignored.

Forty-five foreign nationals were among the dead and 500 people were injured in the attacks. The tourist hotspot has been under a state of emergency since.

Sri Lanka’s State Intelligence Service (SIS) has been criticised for failing to act on the Indian warnings.

Sirisena, who is also defence minister and law and order minister, has also faced allegations that he could have prevented the attacks.

The president has objected to a parliamentary investigation into the attacks and ordered police not to cooperate. But the hearings have gone ahead and police have testified before legislators.

Earlier this month, Sirisena sacked national intelligence chief Sisira Mendis after he testified that the attacks could have been prevented.

Mendis said the president had failed to hold regular security meetings to assess security threats.

Defence secretary Hemasiri Fernando and police chief Pujith Jayasundara also suggested Sirisena did not follow proper protocol in dealing with the intelligence warnings from India.

Fernando was forced to resign, while Jayasundara has been suspended from duty.

Indian intelligence shared information about the targets — gleaned from a jihadist in Indian custody — as early as April 4. — AFP

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