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In the wake of the deadly Easter Sunday bombings in Sri Lanka, police said on Monday that they will also investigate reports that the intelligence community had failed to detect or warn of the suicide attacks before they happened.
Nine bombings occurred at churches, luxury hotels, and other sites that killed 290 people and wounded more than 500, said police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekara. It was the deadliest violence seen in Sri Lanka since the end of the civil war a decade ago.
Two government ministers have hinted at intelligence failures. Telecommunications Minister Harin Fernando tweeted: “Some intelligence officers were aware of this incidence. Therefore there was a delay in action. Serious action needs to be taken as to why this warning was ignored.”
His tweet also contained documents dated on April 11 with the words: ‘INFORMATION OF AN ALLEGED PLAN ATTACK.’
Fernando said even his father had received news of a possible attacked and warned him not to enter popular churches.
Mano Ganeshan, minister for national integration, also revealed that security officers in his ministry had been warned about the possibility of two suicide bombers targeting politicians.
Gunasekara said the Criminal Investigation Department, which is investigating the blasts, will look into the reports.
According to Defense Minister Ruwan Wijewardena, the blasts were terrorist attacks by religious extremists. Police announced the arrest of 13 suspects although there was no immediate claim of responsibility. He added that most of the bombings were believed to have been suicide attacks.
“People were being dragged out,” said 24-year-old Bhanuka Harischandra, of Colombo, founder of a tech marketing company. He was going to the Shangri-La Hotel for a meeting when it was bombed.
“People didn’t know what was going on. It was panic mode. There was blood everywhere.”
While most of those killed were Sri Lankans, three of the bombed hotels and one of the churches, St. Anthony’s Shrine, were frequented by foreign tourists. The bodies of at least 27 foreigners from various countries were recovered, said Sri Lanka’s Foreign Ministry.
“Several” Americans were among those killed. Britain, India, China, Japan, and Portugal have also said that they, too, lost citizens.
While the government had already lifted a curfew that had been imposed during the night, most social media remained blocked on Monday. Officials said they needed to stop the spread of false information and ease tension in the country of about 21 million people.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe feared the attacks could trigger instability in Sri Lanka and vowed to “vest all necessary powers with the defense forces” to punish those responsible.
There have been no violent Muslim militants in Sri Lanka although there have been tensions between hard-line Buddhist monks and Muslims recently. Sri Lanka is 70 percent Buddhist.
However, two Muslim groups condemned the attacks as well as other countries around the world. At the end of his traditional Easter Sunday blessing in Rome, Pope Francis expressed his condolences to the families of the victims.
“I want to express my loving closeness to the Christian community, targeted while they were gathered in prayer, and all the victims of such cruel violence,” Francis said.
“An Off-duty Police Officer Saves The Lives Of Mothers And Daughters By Neutralizing The Actions Of A Gunman”