The “involvement of international elements is clear” from the pattern of Sunday’s blasts in Sri Lanka, and investigators suspect that “two or three more bombs” are yet to be detected, a top government official in Colombo told The Indian Express.
Shiral Lakthilaka, advisor and coordinating secretary at the Presidential Secretariat, also said that the arrest of seven suspects was based on the “suspicious movement” of a vehicle before the blast at Colombo’s Cinnamon Grand hotel, which was one of those targetted.
“Such a series of blasts and killings was not witnessed even at the height of the Sri Lankan war (against the Tamil Tigers)…We can see a pattern similar to a series of blasts that occurred in Nigeria a few years ago (2011) and an attack in Pakistan (2018),” Lakthilaka said, without providing further details.
Asked about the arrests during a raid by police at a Colombo apartment, he said: “They remain significant at the moment. But the seven who were arrested there cannot be linked directly to the blast as they were taken in custody out of suspicion, for being in the vicinity of an apartment where the terrorists were camping… Investigators suspect that two or three more bombs remain at large.”
Detailing one of the first crucial tip-offs, the official said: “We traced the vehicle immediately to the compound of an apartment in Dematagoda in Colombo’s northern suburb. Security personnel surrounded the building. As officers were about to enter the house on the third floor to carry out searches, a suicide bomber detonated explosives killing a Special Task Force personnel and two constables who were in the search team.”
Asked about a possible security and intelligence lapse, he said: “A detailed investigation will look into all aspects of the incident. It may be too early to talk about (security) lapses. Terrorists have penetrated our security system… We suspect the role of international elements behind this. We cannot pinpoint anyone, a political or religious angle, to this tragedy right now. We have tightened security for all hotels and worship centres in the country. The situation is under control and the army is on standby to assist and take over any crisis situation.”
In Batticaloa, Bishop Joseph Ponniah, who witnessed the blast at the Zion church where at least 30 people were killed, said the bombings showed that the “majority and minority factor continues to haunt Sri Lanka”.
“I was sitting inside the Bishop House, which is hardly 100 metres from the Zion church. I had been watching many children enter the church since morning on Easter Day for special prayers and special classes. Later, the elders, too, started arriving. It was around 9.10 am when I heard the blast that killed all those innocent people,” he said.
Batticaloa, in the eastern province, is home to a majority of Hindu Tamils and a sizeable number of Christian and Muslim population who hail mostly from an agrarian background.
“Even if the three-decade-long war (with the Tamil Tigers) ended in 2009, minorities continued to face threats. We were victims of atrocities by both the terrorists (LTTE) and the army. Now, it looks like it will never end. The minorities are not being cared for, nothing is being done. The majority and minority factor continues to haunt Sri Lanka,” he said.
In Pictures | Sri Lanka blasts: Easter Mass Murder
“But even in those 30 years of war, never had such an attack on a single day targetted so many innocent people across the country… We fear the death toll may go up further in Batticaloa,” he said.