HomeNewsSri Lanka Catholics seek foreign probe into Easter bombings

Sri Lanka Catholics seek foreign probe into Easter bombings

Sri Lanka’s Catholic church Wednesday demanded an international probe into the 2019 Easter Sunday bombings in Colombo after a British documentary claimed they were orchestrated to tip the outcome of that year’s election.

The documentary, aired on Tuesday, featured a political insider who accused current intelligence chief Suresh Sallay of complicity in the bombings, which killed 279 people including 45 foreigners.

Sallay is closely linked to the powerful Rajapaksa clan, two members of which have served as president of the island nation.

“We wish to express our gratitude to the Channel 4 network for the interest and trouble to focus attention worldwide on this great plot,” Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith told reporters in Colombo.

“What we want is an international, independent investigation.”

Islamist extremists targeted churches and hotels in the 2019 suicide bomb attacks against Christian worshippers and foreign travelers.

Sallay was promoted to lead Sri Lanka’s intelligence apparatus soon after Gotabaya Rajapaksa won the presidential election held later that year after promising to restore security.

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He told Channel 4 he was not in the country at the time of the bombings.

Azad Maulana, the official quoted by Channel 4, was formerly the top aide to a chief minister with close ties to the Rajapaksa family.

“Suresh Sallay came to me and told me the Rajapaksas need an unsafe situation in Sri Lanka, that’s the only way for Gotabaya to become president,” Maulana said in the documentary.

Maulana said he realized after the Easter attacks that he had unwittingly facilitated a meeting between Sallay and the perpetrators.

A man pays his respect in front of the graves of the victims of the Easter Sunday attacks of 2019 that killed 279 people at three churches and hotels, in Katuwapitiya on April 4, 2021. / AFP / ISHARA S. KODIKARA

The alleged involvement of local intelligence operatives in the attacks has been raised in Sri Lankan courts.

Several local investigations into the attacks found authorities had failed to act on warnings from an Indian intelligence agency 17 days before the bombings that an attack was imminent.

However, this is the first time Sallay has been directly accused of plotting the attacks.

Sallay has previously threatened to sue a Catholic priest who implied that the military intelligence unit he headed at the time was responsible.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has urged an independent investigation with international help to establish the “full circumstances” of the bombings.

Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the younger brother of former president Mahinda Rajapaksa, announced his candidacy soon after the attacks and pledged to wipe out Islamist extremists.

He was forced out of office last year, halfway into his term, as Sri Lanka suffered an unprecedented economic crisis.

Maulana fled Sri Lanka last year, saying he feared for his life, and has sought asylum in Europe.

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