News & Opinion | April 22, 2019 9:54 am

Authorities in Sri Lanka Were Warned of Attacks Two Weeks Ago

More than 20 suspects have been arrested

Attacks in Sri Lanka
Sri Lankan soldiers secure an area near St. Anthony's Shrine after a string of bombings. (Jewel Samad/ AFP/Getty)
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Sri Lankan authorities were warned that an attack was imminent about two weeks before the weekend’s string of Easter Sunday bombings that has left at least 290 dead and more than 500 injured, a cabinet spokesman admitted.

The government even had the names of possible suspects, the official said.

“Fourteen days before these incidents occurred, we had been informed about these incidents,” Rajitha Senaratne said at a press conference in the Sri Lankan, capital, Colombo, on Monday. “On 9 April, the chief of national intelligence wrote a letter and in this letter many of the names of the members of the terrorist organisation were written down.”

The radical islamist group National Thowheeth Jama’ath — a newly formed radical islamist group in Sri Lanka — was named in the report warning about the attacks. The group is known to be “virulently anti-Buddhist,” according to the Guardian, and has been linked to acts of vandalization against the religion in the past.

Senaratne emphasized, however, that prime minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, and his cabinet were not made aware of the possibility of an attack because they were not invited to the national security council meetings. The meetings are run instead by Sri Lankan president, Maithripala Sirisena.

“The prime minister was not informed by these letters and revelations,” Senaratne said. “We are not trying to evade responsibility but these are the facts. We were surprised to see these reports.”

There are 24 suspects in police custody as of Monday and an alleged safe house used by the terrorists has been raided, the Guardian reported. Since the Sunday bombings, another explosive was found and defused by police while 87 bomb detonators were discovered at Colombo’s main bus station. A nationwide curfew has been imposed on citizens from 8 pm on Monday until 4 am on Tuesday.