Colombo: Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe Saturday said all the members of a local Islamist extremist group blamed by the government for the Easter Sunday bombings have been arrested.
Nine suicide bombers carried out a series of devastating blasts that tore through three churches and as many luxury hotels on the Easter Sunday, killing 258 people and injuring over 500 others.
The government blamed local jihadi group National Thowheeth Jama’ath (NTJ) for the attacks. The Islamic State group also claimed a role in the attacks.
“I have obtained reports from the police that all of Zahran’s group have been either arrested or are currently under detention,” Wickremesinghe said while addressing a gathering at Galle in the south.
NTJ leader Zahran Hashim was killed in one of the suicide bomb explosions at a Colombo hotel during the Easter Sunday attacks. Forty-four foreigners, including 11 Indians, were killed in the Easter attacks.
The Prime Minister said the threat from the extremist group has been totally negated.
“All who were having links with them have been questioned and those who had attended Zahran’s preaching sessions too have been questioned,” he said.
Wickremesinghe’s government has come under criticism for not acting on the intelligence that was made available prior to the attacks.
Several probes are currently underway to establish the security failure and its responsibility.
Meanwhile, President Maithripala Sirisena’s office announced Saturday that the emergency regulations imposed in the immediate aftermath of the attacks have been extended by a month.
The tough laws, granting sweeping powers to police and security forces to arrest and detain suspects, were due to expire on Saturday. They were imposed on 24 April and then extended until 22 May and have been further extended by another month, the officials said.
It was under the emergency regulations that the NTJ was proscribed as a terrorist outfit.
The parliamentary panel, which was appointed to probe the attacks and the reported intelligence failure, revealed that Zahran and his NTJ activities were known since 2017 and there was no serious attention given to the threats the group provided.