Local Islamist group behind Sri Lanka attacks

An international network helped a radical local group to stage the coordinated bomb attacks on Sri Lankan churches, hotels and a housing complex on Easter Sunday leaving 253 dead and more than 500 injured, a minister said.

The attackers, including seven suicide bombers, belonged to the local Islamist group National Thowheeth Jama’ath (NTJ), said Minister of Health, Nutrition and Indigenous Medicine Rajitha Senaratne.

Ten days ago, police chief Pujuth Jayasundara had issued an intelligence alert on NTJ threat to top officers based on a tip-off from a foreign agency.

Blaming President Maithripala Sirisena’s government, Senaratne said it was unfortunate that despite the intelligence alerts from Jayasundara, the security agencies could not avert the attacks.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said there was alert on potential attacks.

According to Senaratne, NTJ would not have been unable to carry out an attack of this scale and precision without help from an international network. He did not drop any hint about the network.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attacks so far.

The government on Monday extended the curfew in Colombo.

It has declared April 23 (Tuesday) as a day of national mourning over the deadliest attack the island nation has witnessed since the end of a civil war 10 years ago.

Christians, Muslim and Hindus, who form 25% of the nation’s population, have been living in harmony with majority Buddhists for years.

Sunday’s attack and the timing are seen as part of a sinister plan to divide the nation on communal lines and create instability.

The attacks on four hotels may temporarily affect tourism. Some 40 foreigners were killed in Sunday’s attacks. Among them were five Britons, four Americans and 11 Indians.