Sri Lanka Easter serial blasts: Toll mounts, Interpol begins probe

Colombo: Even as the death toll in the serial bomb blasts in Sri Lanka reportedly crossed 310 today, reports stated that Interpol has started investigating into one of the deadliest attacks in recent years.

The Sri Lankan government never expected the Easter Sunday bombings of such magnitude, Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando said today and asserted that it would have been ‘impossible’ to protect a large number of churches in the country despite receiving prior intelligence about the attacks which killed 290 people, including 8 Indians.

Seven suicide bombers, believed to be members of local Islamist extremist group National Tawheed Jamath (NTJ), carried out a series of devastating blasts that tore through churches and luxury hotels in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday, in the country’s worst terror attack.

No group has claimed responsibility for Sunday’s attacks, but the police have arrested 24 people – mostly members of an Islamist extremist group – in connection with the blasts that also killed 31 foreigners, including eight Indian nationals.

“It was quite impossible to protect a large number of churches last Sunday despite receiving prior information on these attacks,” Fernando told reporters.

He said the government did not expect an attack of such magnitude to occur and the extensive measures to prevent the bombings would have been impossible.

“An emergency law is non-functional in this country since Sri Lanka is a democratic country. Therefore, there is very little I can do,” the Defence Secretary was quoted as saying by the Sunday Times.

Fernando noted that the State intelligence service had already informed the government of a small but organised and powerful criminal group operating in the country.

He said the FBI has already commenced investigations into the incident while the Interpol is expected to arrive in the country today.

The Defence Secretary said the government will not provide protection to hotels as it is an aspect which must be looked after by their respective security officials.

Fernando said the government had not provided security to hotels even during the civil war.

Interpol Secretary-General Jurgen Stock, in a Twitter message, offered full support to the investigation being carried out by the Lankan authorities.

Sri Lanka’s President Maithripala Sirisena today gave the military sweeping police powers in the wake of the Easter bombings.