Colombo, April 23 (IANS): Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on Tuesday said that authorities were making progress in identifying the culprits of the Easter Sunday suicide bombings which killed 321 people and wounded over 500 and evidence had been found on foreign links of the attacks.
At a press conference in the official residence of the Prime Minister, Wickremesinghe said that authorities were looking at the claim by Islamic State terror group for the carnage, the worst outbreak of violence in the island nation in a decade.
On an earlier statement by Defence Minister Ruwan Wijewardene that the bombings were an “act of retaliation” for the shootings at two mosques in New Zealand, the Prime Minister said it was yet to be confirmed.
Media reports said the police detained 40 suspects, including a Syrian, in connection with the attacks, but Wickremesinghe declined to give the exact number, saying that some of the culprits were still on the run.
Addressing the Parliament, Wickremesinghe said investigators had made good progress identifying the suspects and that some of the bombers had travelled abroad and then returned home.
The leader said that the government would eradicate terrorism with the assistance offered by many countries and international organisations including the UN to combat terrorism.
According to Wickremesinghe, US President Donald Trump, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and leaders of Sweden, Russia and many other countries telephoned him and pledged their support to Sri Lanka.
“We should seize this opportunity use their assistance to eradicate terrorism. Sri Lanka has entered the map of global terrorism with the ruthless attacks on Sunday. Therefore, we have to consider those who launched the attack as global terrorists and it is time brought about structural changes to face this terror situation.”
The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the suicide bombings, while Sri Lankan authorities named a local Muslim group — the National Thowheed Jamath (NJT) — for the carnage, adding that the mayhem would not have been possible without international support.
The Prime Minister said that “this terrorism was different to the terrorism which Sri Lanka faced for 30 years” and that it would have been impossible to defeat local terrorists if the ground battles were not won.
According to Wickremesinghe, the UN code of conduct in creating a world free of terrorism would be implemented in Sri Lanka as he underscored a host of steps that would be carried out such as arresting terrorists, preempting attacks, use of technology and confronting the threats posed by the terrorists in dealing with the issue.
He stressed that one of the main objectives of these terrorists was to destabilize the county’s economy which was gradually picking up.
“The police and the security forces have been instructed to arrest the brains behind the suicide bombers. We request all ethnic and religious groups to unitedly support the government to eradicate this manifestation of global terrorism from the country.”