Sri Lankan police looking for 140 with Islamic State links: President

Sri Lankan police looking for 140 with Islamic State links: President

A soldier stands guard outside the Grand Mosque in Negombo
A soldier stands guard outside the Grand Mosque, days after a string of suicide bomb attacks on churches and luxury hotels across the island on Easter Sunday, in Negombo, Sri Lanka, Apr 26, 2019. (Photo: Reuters)

COLOMBO: Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena said on Friday (Apr 26) police are looking for 140 people believed to have links with the Islamic State group over the Easter Sunday attacks on churches and hotels that killed at least 253 people.

Sirisena told reporters that some Sri Lankan youths had been involved with the extremist group since 2013, and that top defence and police chiefs had not shared information with him about the impending attacks.

READ: Sri Lanka blast toll revised down to 253 as some 'double-counted'

READ: Sri Lanka's defence secretary quits following suicide bomb attacks

He also blamed Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe's government for weakening the intelligence system by focusing on the prosecution of military officers over alleged war crimes during a decade-long civil war with Tamil separatists.

President Sirisena said an extremist believed to have played a key role in the bombings had led an attack on the Shangri-La Hotel.

"What intelligence agencies have told me is that Zahran was killed during the Shangri-La attack," he told reporters, referring to Zahran Hashim, leader of a local extremist group.

He added that Hashim led the attack against the high-end hotel and was accompanied by a second bomber, identified only as "Ilham".

The information came from military intelligence and was based in part on CCTV footage recovered from the scene.

Hashim appeared in a video released by the Islamic State group after it claimed responsibility for the bombings.

Source: Agencies/zl