Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe says that investigators have made good progress in identifying the suspects involved in the Easter Day attacks.
Speaking in a media briefing for the foreign correspondents today (23), the Prime minister also said “it is possible” the Easter bombings were retaliation for the Christchurch attacks, but did not provide any evidence.
He says that there were foreign links behind the attack and that it could not have been done just locally. “There has been training given and coordination which we have not seen earlier”, he said. He added that some of the bombers had traveled abroad and then returned home.
The government’s security agencies were monitoring Sri Lankans who had joined IS and returned home, he added.
He stated that many of the suicide bombers have been identified already.
Sri Lanka has had offers of help from several countries and that several countries have sent down teams to assist in the investigations; however, the police will decide with whom and how they are going to work, stated the Prime Minister.
Stating that they are trying to identify all the nationals affected by the bombings, Wickremesinghe said that some countries will also have to undertake their own investigation because their nationals have been affected by the blast.
“We, if it was known, certainly could have prevented many of the attacks in the churches and have more security in the hotels,” Wickremesinghe said.
The Prime Minister refused to disclose the number of suspects arrested over the attacks; however, when asked if a Syrian national has been taken into custody, he stated that only Sri Lankans have been arrested so far.
Wickremesinghe stated that terrorists do not belong to any faith and that Sri Lanka will continue their policy of ensuring unity and religious harmony within the country while tracking down global terrorism.
When asked about the continued threat, he said:
“There are a few people on the run, somehow on the run, so we’ve got to detain them. We have an unknown number of suspects on the run.”
Speaking on the relationship between the President and the Prime Minister having affected public security, Wickremesinghe stated that they have put behind their differences of opinion to face this issue. He said that the top priority of them was to apprehend the offenders.
When questioned on the social media ban Premier stated that it will be discussed tomorrow and that this was done to ensure communal harmony in the first days of the attack. He said, “We went through these exercises earlier in Digana. We didn’t want to take another chance.”
Wickremesinghe said that the security apparatus is of the view that there are foreign links behind this attack and that they had suspicions of an ISIS involvement as well.
Prime Minister refused to name the local group which had carried out these attacks. But he stated that they are concerned by it despite it being a smaller group in size.
“A vast majority of Muslims condemn this. They are as angry as the Sinhalese and the Tamils as to what has happened”, the Prime Minister added.