Home Catholic Church & Asia Sri Lankan cardinal threatens protest if Easter bombings not investigated openly

Sri Lankan cardinal threatens protest if Easter bombings not investigated openly

The archbishop of Colombo has threatened to take to the streets if the 2019 Sri Lanka Easter bombings, which killed 259 people and injured hundreds more, is not investigated transparently.

Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith said there must be a thorough probe into how the April 2019 bombings in Colombo transpired, including who helped the terrorists carry out the attack, PTI reports.

“I will not hesitate to hit the streets to safeguard the rights of our people,” Cardinal Ranjith said at a religious event at Ragama in north Colombo.

Expressing approval for some aspects of the investigation initiated by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s predecessor, Maithripala Sirisena, the cardinal added that the process was being hindered by a lack of transparency. 

“I can sense that some of the things which need to come out are being hidden — who was responsible? Who aided them and kept contact with them (the jihadi group)?” he asked.

Cardinal Ranjith added “questioning from the highest to the very lowest level” would be necessary. 

On April 21, 2019, a wave of suicide bombings ripped through Colombo on Easter Sunday, targeting three churches and three luxury hotels. Some 259 people were killed in the attack and at least 500 more were injured. 

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While Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attacks, the government has pinned the blame on home-grown militants.

The previous government faced heavy criticism for failing to thwart the attacks despite at least three warnings in April of that year alone from Indian intelligence.

A highly critical parliamentary report released in October 2019 said that the alleged mastermind of the attack, Mohamed Zahran, had been known to authorities as early as 2015, and an arrest warrant had been issued for him in March 2017, the Guardian reported

Zahran was among the eight terrorists to die in the Easter Sunday suicide attacks.

Members of that parliamentary committee went so far as to question whether police and intelligence failures to thwart the attacks might have been deliberate.

“Further investigations will be needed to understand whether those with vested interests did not act on intelligence so as to create chaos and instill fear and uncertainty in the country in the lead-up to the presidential election,” the committee said.

Weeks after the bombings, Rajapaksa announced his candidacy for president, positioning himself as a strong figure on the national security front capable of stamping out violent extremism. 

Having served as the minister of defense under his brother and former president Mahinda Rajapaksa, the two led highly controversial efforts to end a civil war in 2009 that had gripped Sri Lanka for 26 years.

In November 2019, Rajapaksa won the presidential poll. 

In February, the government appointed a six-member team to help police gather information and expedite the president-led investigation into the attack. 

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