COLOMBO: Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena said a foreign mastermind may have planned the Easter Sunday bombings, claimed by IS, telling the militant group to “leave my country alone”.
Sirisena also warned it may be possible IS had launched a “new strategy” by targeting smaller countries, Sky New said on Wednesday.
A government source said on Tuesday police and other security forces across the country had been ordered to remain on high alert because the militants were expected to try to strike again, before the holy month of Ramadhan which starts on Monday.
Sirisena said authorities were aware of “a small group” of Sri Lankans who had travelled abroad to receive training from IS over the past decade.
Investigations revealed the bombs used in the Easter attacks were made locally, the president said in the interview.
The suicide bombings on hotels and churches killed more than 250 people, including 40 foreign nationals. Police suspect members of two previously little-known groups — National Thawheedh Jamaath and Jammiyathul Millathu Ibrahim — of carrying out the attacks.
On Monday, IS’s media network published a video message purporting to come from its leader, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, which would be his first appearance since declaring the extremists’ now-defunct “caliphate” five years ago.
In the video, a bearded man with Baghdadi’s appearance says the Sri Lanka bombings were IS’s response to losses in its last territorial stronghold of Baghouz in Syria.
In the Sky News interview, Sirisena said he had a message for IS: “Leave my country alone.”
Sri Lankan authorities have previously said that they suspect the attackers had international links. — Reuters