Sri Lanka still reeling from Easter Sunday attacks

Sri Lanka still reeling from Easter Sunday attacks

Sri Lanka is still reeling from a devastating series of bombings on Easter Sunday that left more than 250 people dead and at least 500 wounded.

In the week since the attacks, there have been multiple revelations of staggering intelligence and security failures, largely due to political infighting and a dysfunctional government that even now is failing to show a united front or provide sufficient reassurance and guidance to a shaken public.

Raids are continuing on suspected bomb-making factories and safe houses in the east of the island.

A large quantity of explosives was seized on Friday, April 26 after a deadly shootout between police and alleged terrorists in Sainthamaruthu, Kalmunai.

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That’s not far from near Kattankudy, the home town in eastern Sri Lanka of the alleged mentor and ringleader of the Easter Sunday attacks, Zahran Hashim.

A radical Islamist preacher, Zahran was known to the authorities and local Muslim community for years as a dangerous and violent figure.

Weeks before the bombings, India’s intelligence service warned its Sri Lankan counterpart that Zahran was planning an attack on churches and hotels.

Before those unusually specific intelligence reports, there were other signals that something big was coming — small signs that in retrospect appear to be blaring-red alarms.

Last December, a set of Buddhist statues was vandalized by radical Muslim youths in Mawanella, central Sri Lanka.

Local Muslim leaders linked Zahran to those attacks.

In January, four men were arrested after police found 100 kilograms of explosives at a coconut farm in Wanathawilluwa, in western Sri Lanka.

Local media reports say police at the time suspected the discovery was linked to the earlier attacks on Buddhist shrines.

Then, earlier this month in Kattankudy, Zahran’s home town, a motorbike was blown up in what police now think was a test run of the Sunday attacks.

Throughout, moderate Muslims and some Buddhists were becoming worried about Zahran’s sermons, shared on YouTube and Facebook, which were taking an increasingly violent and extreme turn.

 

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