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No ISIS link in Sri Lanka terror attack, reveals probe

NTJ leader Zahran Hashim had made a video with his fellow suicide bombers pledging allegiance to IS leader Abu Bakr Al-Bagdadi. The video was released by the IS two days later.

SNS | New Delhi |

Sri Lanka’s Easter bombing that had killed 250 people and hundreds wounded were carried out by local Islamists who drew inspiration from but that were not linked to the Islamic State group, top investigators said on Wednesday.

Ravi Seneviratne, the head of the Criminal Investigations Department said, “The suicide bombers who targeted three churches and three hotels had no direct link to the foreign jihadi group”.

“They followed the IS ideology, but our investigations have not shown any link between them,” Seneviratne told a parliamentary panel probing security and intelligence lapses leading to the April 21 bombings.

He further said that remnants the local group identified as National Thowheeth Jama’ath (NTJ) had persuaded IS to claim the attack two days after the deadly events in Sri Lanka.

NTJ leader Zahran Hashim had made a video with his fellow suicide bombers pledging allegiance to IS leader Abu Bakr Al-Bagdadi. The video was released by the IS two days later.

Another investigator, Shani Abeysekara, told the same parliamentary panel that the CID had found 105 kilograms (230 pounds) of explosives from an NTJ hideout earlier this year.

“If not for this discovery, they would have been able to cause much more damage,” Abeysekara said while adding that they were already investigating the NTJ when the attacks took place.

President Maithripala Sirisena has said the attacks were the work of international drug dealers to sabotage his anti-narcotics drive.

Earlier In June, Sri Lankan President Mathripala Srisena had said that he did not receive any report or information that the suicide bombers involved in the Easter Sunday serial blasts had travelled to India prior to the attack.

The blasts targeted St Anthony’s Church in Colombo, St Sebastian’s Church in the western coastal town of Negombo and Zion Church in the eastern town of Batticaloa around 8.45 am (local time) as the Easter Sunday mass were in progress.

Sri Lanka was tipped off of an impending attack by Indian authorities based on information from an Islamic extremist in their custody.

Sri Lanka’s police chief Pujith Jayasundara and the top defence ministry bureaucrat Hemasiri Fernando are currently facing criminal charges over their alleged negligence to prevent an attack.