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Indian intelligence warned of threat hours before Sri Lanka suicide attacks

Updated April 24, 2019

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People gather outside St Anthony's Shrine a day after a blast targeted it. ─ AP/File
People gather outside St Anthony's Shrine a day after a blast targeted it. ─ AP/File

COLOMBO: Sri Lankan intelligence officials were tipped off about an imminent attack by Islamist militants hours before a series of suicide bombings killed more than 300 people on Easter Sunday, three sources with direct knowledge of the matter said.

Three churches and four hotels were hit by suicide bombers on Sunday morning, killing 321 people and wounding 500, sending shockwaves through an island state that has been relatively peaceful since a civil war ended a decade ago.Indian intelligence officers contacted their Sri Lankan counterparts two hours before the first attack to warn of a specific threat on churches, one Sri Lankan defence source and an Indian government source said.

Another Sri Lankan defence source said a warning came “hours before” the first strike.

One of the Sri Lankan sources said a warning was also sent by the Indians on Saturday night. The Indian government source said similar messages had been given to Sri Lankan intelligence agents on April 4 and April 20.

Sri Lanka’s presidency and the Indian foreign ministry both did not respond to requests for comment.

Sri Lanka’s failure to effectively respond to a looming Islamist threat will fuel fears that a rift between Prime Minister Ranil Wickreme­sin­ghe and President Maithripala Siri­se­­na is undermining national security.

The president fired Wickreme­sin­ghe last October over political differences, only to reinstate him weeks later under pressure from the Supr­e­me Court.

Published in Dawn, April 24th, 2019