EASTER SUNDAY BOMB BLAST IN SRI LANKA Part 10
Posted on July 5th, 2019

KAMALIKA PIERIS

The Easter Sunday attacks are considered, worldwide, as one of the most sophisticated attacks in recent years. The bombs were all highly impactful and were detonated at precise locations with impeccable timing, ensuring maximum impact and maximum casualties.

These attacks in Sri Lanka are said to be the biggest single terrorist attack targeting civilians ever to take place in South Asia. So many people did not lose their lives even in the Mumbai attacks of 2008, said analysts. Even during that 30 year war, no single attack carried out by the terrorists targeting civilians ever resulted in as much carnage as the Easter Sunday attacks. The LTTE also carried out co-ordinated simultaneous attacks on multiple targets but even they were not able to wreak the same amount of destruction.

 Communist Party issued a statement on the event. From all evidence hitherto revealed, it was a wall-designed, clearly calculated, cleverly organized terrorist attack showing an international pattern of terrorism, said the statement.  Though it is too early to form conclusions, it is abundantly clear that the intention of the perpetrators was to destabilize the society, dismantle the economy, create fear and suspicion amongst religious and ethnic minorities and promote backlash. The hands of extremist groups associated with drug barons cannot be ruled out. The gradual shift of terrorism from Middle East to the South Asia, judging from the pattern of events, is a matter of grave concern, concluded the statement.

The bombers had used “Mother of Satan” explosives favored by the Islamic State group. That is a new sign of foreign involvement said analysts. This attack on Christians and targeting foreigners and the claim by ISIL will give an international dimension to this event. Sri Lanka will come alongside Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria and this will lead to the possibility of foreign intervention.  Both the prime minister and the president are with one voice saying that Sri Lanka ‘needs the help of foreign intelligence agencies.’ This is global terrorism so we need the expertise of other countries they said. In his April 26 special statement the PM, no less than six times, mentioned the need for foreign assistance.

Detectives said the back-pack bombs used in the April 21 attacks on three churches and three hotels contained the explosive as Triacetone Triperoxide, or TATP, an unstable but easily made mixture favored by Islamic State militants who call it “Mother of Satan”.”It looks like they used a cocktail of TATP and gelignite and some chemicals in the Easter attacks. Investigators had initially believed that C4 explosives — a favored weapon of Tamil Tiger rebels — were used, but forensic tests found TATP which causes more burning than C4. .Police have also confirmed that 100 kilograms (220 pounds) of explosives found in January in the islands northwest was TATP.

The explosives were manufactured by local jihadists with Islamic State expertise. “The group had easy access to chemicals and fertilizer to get the raw materials to make TATP,” an official involved in the investigation said. “The group had easy access to chemicals and fertiliser to get the raw materials to make TATP,” an official involved in the investigation said. Sri Lankan and international investigators are anxious to know just how much outside help went into the attacks.

Sri Lankan detectives say the National Thowheeth Jama’ath (NTJ), local militants blamed for the attacks, must have had foreign help to assemble the bombs. “They would have had a face-to-face meeting to transfer this technology. This is not something you can do by watching a YouTube video,” said the official,

Prof.  Rohan Gunaratne commented on the shocking security failure”. He said the April 21 attacks had revealed the collective failure of the political leadership. Sri Lanka had experienced the Easter Sunday suicide bombings due to politicians playing politics with national security. Having come to power in January 2015, the new administration had done away with check points. That should never have happened. The government also confined the military to barracks. That was a huge mistake. Western powers and smaller political parties including the TNA wanted to restrict the military. Another critic observed that this would not have happened if Mahinda Rajapaksa has been allowed to continue as Prime Minister  after  his appointment in October 2018.

Sri Lanka should have monitored links between Zahran Hasim’s group and the ISIS. A senior Muslim officer responsible for monitoring the activities of Zahran had been moved overseas, said Gunaratne. In addition to that about 500 intelligence officers had been either arrested or exposed, Prof. Gunaratne said.

The public are furious about the bomb blasts. The reaction of the public indicates that Sri Lanka is not an insipid ‘soft state’ , a ‘failed state’,  or a ‘rogue state’ . It is now a very, very Angry State, determined to settle issues.

A father who lost his two children in a bomb blast at St. Anthony’s Church on April 21, 2019 filed a Supreme Court petition on the matter. The petitioner has cited as respondents the IGP and the Secretary Defence. He wants the court to direct the Attorney General to order the prosecution of the respondents for criminal negligence. The petitioner has alleged that the respondents had prior information about the terror attacks but did not care to conduct investigations or provide security. The victim’s children were in their teens. Two other petitions have also  been filed by aggrieved family members (Island 21. 5.19. P 1).

Five attorneys representing the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) filed a Fundamental Rights petition in May 2019 in the Supreme Court against Easter Sunday attack probe operations. They are seeking a declaration that any person found interfering with or attempting to interfere with the anti-terrorism operations of the Police and the Armed Forces should be forthwith arrested and arraigned before the law or otherwise dealt with swiftly in terms of the law. This petition had been filed by BASL President Kalinga N. Indatissa PC, BASL Deputy President Shavindra Fernando PC, BASL Secretary Kaushalya Nawaratne, BASL Treasurer Nalin Chandika De Silva and BASL Assistant Secretary Vishwa De Livera Tennekoon naming Defence Secretary Gen. S.H.S. Kottegoda (Retd), former Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando, IGP Pujith Jayasundera and the cabinet of ministers as respondents.

A criminal investigation is under way to find out why former Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando and Police Chief Pujith Jayasundera failed to act on intelligence warnings about the Easter Sunday massacre announced the media In May.

In April, President Sirisena appointed a committee headed by serving Supreme Court Judge Vijith Malalgoda, PC and two others, N.K. Illangakoon and Padmasiri Jayamanne, a former Secretary to a number of ministries, to study and report on the bomb blasts. As directed, the Committee handed in its interim report within two weeks. Thereafter, it sought an extension of its term until May 31 to complete the final report. The final report was handed on June 10th. The contents were not made public. But the media said it had learned that the committee had made strong strictures on the two top officials.

 The report was seen by Attorney General Dappula de Livera. After studying the report, the Attorney General ordered a probe.  The team was headed by Superintendent of Police J.T.D. Jayasinghe of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID). The CID submitted its report, on June 26.

On the basis of these two reports, Attorney General ordered the acting IGP, on June 27, to produce former Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando and IGP Pujith Jayasundara, who is currently on compulsory leave, in courts over their failure to prevent the Easter Sunday attacks. The AG had decided that Fernando and Jayasundera had neglected their duties and not prevented the terrorist attacks,

When the order for their arrest on charges of criminal negligence and the failure to prevent or minimize the Easter Sunday terrorist attacks,  was made, Hemasiri Fernando  , was admitted  to National Hospital with a heart attack and IGP Pujith Jayasundara was  admitted to the Police Hospital. Colombo Chief Magistrate Lanka Jayaratne   went to the Police Hospital personally and then ordered the arrest of the two persons. They presently remain in hospital, under arrest.  They were further remanded till July 9.

The magisterial inquiry into the incident was taken up before the Court on July  3rd. Deputy Solicitor General Thusitha Mudalige appearing on behalf of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) yesterday informed the Court that former Defense Secretary Hemasiri Fernando and IGP Pujitha Jayasundara had received several intelligence information briefs regarding the attack. But they had not taken any action regarding the Easter Sunday attacks. The State Intelligence Service  had sent letters on April 09, 18 and 20 to the IGP and Secretary of Defense.DSG.

Thusitha Mudalige informed the court that IGP Jayasundara had received details regarding the Easter Sunday attack on April 09. DSG Mudalige further told the Court that the then IGP Jayasundara had sent that letter to Western Province Senior Deputy Inspector General of Police, Senior Deputy Inspector General of Special Task Force, Senior Deputy Inspector General (Special Protection Division) and Senior Deputy Inspector General of Terrorism Investigation Division.When the National Security Council met on April 9, Secretary of Defense Hemasiri Fernando had not mentioned anything regarding that matter before the Council. A blast took place in Kattankudy area on April 17.  They identified it as a prior signal for the next blast but had not taken any action against the terror attack” the DSG said.

The issue of who is responsible for the Easter bomb blasts and what punishment should be meted out to them, is now  developing nicely, and will be decided eventually, But this will be the last essay in this series. (Concluded)

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