Police hunting for 140 suspects with IS links – President

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President Maithripala Sirisena says that he would not excuse himself from the lapse in the part of intelligence information sharing and the government should bear the responsibility for failing to prevent the attacks on Easter Sunday.

The President stated this addressing the Heads of media institutes today (26).

On 4th of April, a foreign country had informed the state intelligence services of the possible attacks, however, he was not notified of this, the President stated.

The main reasons for this lapse are the weakening of military intelligence forces and needless imprisonment and suppression of military officers, according to the President.

The intelligence information received by the IGP regarding the attacks has been forwarded to the Defence Secretary and five other DIGs of Police.

President commended DIG Priyalal Dassanayake, in charge of Colombo’s special security division, for fulfilling his duty by notifying the relevant authorities in this regard.

The President states that accusations are levelled at him for engaging in a personal tour in India and Singapore and failing to act on the attacks. However, this letter containing intelligence information on the attacks had whirled around only between the IGP and the Defence Secretary from 4th to 16th of April.  Yet, neither of them had let him in on the relevant letter prior to departure, claims the President.

President Sirisena says that he was slated to return to the country on April 21st after concluding his Indian and Singaporean tours.

President says he was informed of the terror attacks only through social media by another person who was with him on the tour.

IGP and the Defence Secretary have neglected their responsibilities by failing to at least telephone him to impart this piece of information, the President noted.

President Sirisena further stated that the IGP and the Defence Secretary had visited him on April 14th to greet him for the Sinhala and Tamil New Year, yet they had not bothered to reveal the information even at that encounter.

President says that he expects the IGP to resign during the course of the day and that a new Defence Secretary would be appointed to the already vacated position.

The IGP was not able to respond when confronted at the Security Council on April 22nd regarding who is to be held accountable for this unfortunate situation, the President further says.

Addressing the press conference, the President urged all Sri Lankans not to look at the entire Muslim community as terrorists.

“There is an ample link between religious extremism and drug trafficking in the world. It is possible that the attacks escalated due to the drug eradication programme carried out by me,” he stated.

Speaking on the ongoing investigations and search operations, the President stated that at least 70 suspects have so far been arrested in connection with the attacks.

However, information was received that there are 130-140 persons in the country with links to the Islamic State, he added.

The security forces are expediting investigations to arrest these suspects, while a group of experts has also arrived in the country to provide assistance in this regard.

President ensured that he would take all the necessary measures to eradicate terrorism from the country.