Defence

10 days before Sri Lanka bombing, there was clear intel about church attacks

The warning in the April 11 letter was plain: A local group was planning a suicide terror attack against churches in Sri Lanka.

Priyalal Disanayaka, the deputy inspector general of police, signed the letter addressed to the directors of four Sri Lankan security agencies. He identified Mohammed Zaharan as the leader of “National Thawheek Jaman” and said state intelligence showed Zaharan’s group was planning a suicide attack in the country.

Disanayaka asked the four security directors to “pay extra attention” to the places and VIPs in their care.

The intelligence report attached to his letter, which has circulated widely on social media, was written in both the local Sinhala language and English. It called the group National Towheed Jamaar and said was led by Zahran Hashmi, and was targeting “some important churches” in a suicide terrorist attack that was planned to take place “shortly.” The report named six individuals likely to be involved in the plot.

The variance on the names wasn’t explained. The letter bears the seal of the ministerial security division.

On Monday, Sri Lanka’s health minister held up a copy of the intelligence report while describing its contents, spurring questions about what Sri Lanka police had done to protect the public from an attack.

It was not immediately clear what steps were taken by any of these security directors. Disanayaka did not answer calls or messages seeking comment.

But as Sri Lanka’s leaders wrangled the aftermath of an apparent homegrown militant attack and massive intelligence failure, security was heightened Tuesday and the military was employing powers to make arrests it last used when the devastating civil war ended in 2009.

Among the 40 people arrested on suspicion of links to the Easter bombings was the driver of a van allegedly used by the suicide bombers and the owner of a house where some of them lived.

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