One of the Sri Lanka bombers studied in the UK and Australia before carrying out the bombings, which may have been funded and inspired by Isis, the defence minister has said.
“We believe that one of the suicide bombers studied in the UK and later did his postgraduate [studies] in Australia before coming back and settling in Sri Lanka,” said Ruwan Wijewardene, the state minister for defence, at a media briefing on Wednesday afternoon.
Wijewardene confirmed that many of the bombers had international connections, having lived or studied abroad.
“This group of suicide bombers, most of them are well-educated and come from middle or upper-middle class, so they are financially quite independent and their families are quite stable financially, that is a worrying factor in this,” he said. “Some of them have I think studied in various other countries, they hold degrees, LLMs [law degrees], they’re quite well-educated people.”
Since the attacks, the Sri Lankan authorities have admitted they failed to act on precise intelligence from India that extremists were plotting to bomb churches.
On Tuesday, Maithripala Sirisena, the Sri Lankan President, said warnings had not been shared with him and promised "stern action". "The security officials who got the intelligence report from a foreign nation did not share it with me. I have decided to take stern action against these officials,” he said.
In an alarming claim, Lakshman Kiriella, the leader of the parliament, alleged that senior officials had deliberately withheld intelligence about possible attacks. "Some top intelligence officials hid the intelligence information purposefully. Information was there, but the top brass security officials did not take appropriate actions," he told fellow MPs. "Somebody is controlling these top intelligence officials," he said. "The Security Council is doing politics. We need to investigate this."
A high-level intelligence official in Sri Lanka told CNN that the NTJ was planning a second wave of attacks across Sri Lanka.
The announcement comes after the death toll rose again to 359 on Wednesday with more than 500 people wounded.
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