Sri Lanka has filed 23,270 charges against 25 people in connection with the deadly Easter Sunday 2019 attacks that killed more than 270 people, including 11 Indians, the president’s office said Wednesday.
The charges filed Tuesday under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) include conspiracy to commit murder, complicity, collection of weapons and ammunition and attempted murder.
Nine suicide bombers belonging to the local Islamist extremist group National Thawheed Jamaat (NTJ) associated with ISIS carried out a series of blasts that ripped through three churches and as many luxury hotels in Sri Lanka, killing 258 people, including 11 Indians, and injured more than 500 on Easter Sunday 21 April 2019.
Sri Lankan police have arrested hundreds of suspects in connection with the suicide bombings.
The Attorney General’s Department said the chief justice has been asked to appoint a special Supreme Court tribunal to quickly hear the cases.
The Buddhist-majority nation was about to mark a decade since ending a 37-year Tamil separatist war in May 2009 when the 2019 suicide bombings shook the country.
The attacks sparked a political storm as the then-government led by President Maithirpala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was blamed for failing to prevent the deadly attacks, despite previous information made available about the impending terror attacks.
During his tenure, Sirisena formed a presidential panel to investigate the attacks.
In its report, the panel said former President Sirisena and a host of other top defense officials, including former defense secretaries, former IGPs and intelligence chiefs, were guilty of ignoring past intelligence. The panel report recommended criminal action against them.
Both the then police chief and the top defense bureaucrat were fired and arrested for doing nothing to prevent the attacks. Last month Catholic Church head Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith urged the government to take action against Wickremesinghe for failing to prevent the attacks as prime minister at the time.
The cardinal said a presidential investigation into then-President Sirisena’s attacks found him guilty of failing to prevent the attacks.
Likewise, the investigation blames Wickremesinghe for his soft stance on the island’s emerging Islamist extremism, the cardinal said.
The church, which claims responsibility for the intelligence agency’s failures, has expressed its dismay at the lack of seriousness in the investigations into booking perpetrators.
The government denies any lethargy in investigations and says nearly 700 people have been arrested and proper legal proceedings have been instituted.
The explosions targeted St. Anthony’s Church in Colombo, St. Sebastian’s Church in the western coastal town of Negombo and a church in the eastern town of Batticaloa when Easter Sunday Mass was underway on April 21, 2019.
Three explosions were reported from three five-star hotels – the Shangri-La, the Cinnamon Grand and the Kingsbury in Colombo.
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