In an interview with BBC published on Friday, Sri Lanka’s Army chief Lieutenant General Mahesh Senanayake has stated that the suicide bombers of the April 21 Easter Sunday bombings had visited Kashmir, Kerala and Bangalore, possibly for training.
Every since Easter Sunday attacks, Indian agencies have been trying to ascertain an Indian connection with the bombings. The statement by the Army chief is the first official confirmation of the terrorists having travelled to India.
“They had gone to India, travelling to Bangalore, Kashmir and Kerala state, (according to) information available with us,” Senanayake said.
When enquired about the purpose of the visits, Senanayake said that they would have visited for the purpose of training or establishing links with other foreign groups.
On being probed further on why Sri Lanka was targeted, the Army chief stated that people of the country had been enjoying peace for 10 years and have forgotten the 26-year war that the country had to face. He said that the country had too much freedom and that they have neglected security issues.
It is notable here that the Sri Lankan government had admitted earlier that there had been major lapses in security and intelligence that eventually led to the attacks. As per reports, Indian intelligence agencies had warned the Sri Lankan authorities about possible attacks on 4, 10, 16, 20 April and for the last time just two hours before the Easter bombings. The last warning had even included the names of the three churches that were under threat.
“We had some information and intelligence-sharing, situations and military intelligence on a different direction and the others were different and there was a gap that everybody could see today,” said the Army chief in response to the query on the intelligence failure of the Sri Lankan security forces. The NIA had warned the Sri Lankan agencies in advance on the basis of raids on ISIS modules in India.
ISIS had claimed responsibility for the blasts. The sons of one of the richest and politically well-connected man were found to be two of the suicide bombers. The family is under interrogation after the wife of one of the bombers triggered another suicide blast to kill policemen in their Colombo dwelling.
However, a senior Indian official at the home ministry reportedly said, “Sri Lanka hasn’t shared any such information with us. Importantly, Sri Lankan security agencies themselves have ruled this out after the investigation.” As of now, Indian agencies haven’t announced any Kashmir link with the bombings in Sri Lanka.
Indian officials believe that at least two suicide bombers had travelled to India in 2017. The preacher Maulvi Zahran Bin Hashim, the leader of Sri Lanka National Towheed Jama’at (NTJ), who is responsible for the Easter Sunday attacks had visited India before. It is notable here that the NTJ has an Indian arm operational in Tamil Nadu.