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I feel betrayed by intelligence failures says Sri Lankan Catholic leader

By Anuj Cariappa
|

Colombo, Apr 27: Sri Lanka's Catholic leader said he felt "betrayed" by the government's failure to act on warnings that could have prevented the Easter bombings, adding that services would not resume until security could be guaranteed.

The government has admitted major lapses over the foreign intelligence warning that radical Islamist group National Thowheeth Jama'ath (NTJ) was planning suicide bombings on churches.

I feel betrayed by intelligence failures says Sri Lankan Catholic leader

On April 11, Sri Lanka's police chief issued an alert based on the intelligence. Neither the prime minister nor other top ministers were among the recipients.

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At least 253 people died when attackers blew themselves up at three churches, including two Catholic ones, and three hotels in coordinated blasts.

Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, the archbishop of Colombo, said the island's Catholic church had also not been informed about a possible attack.

"I felt betrayed a little bit. I felt sad," he told reporters, when asked about the warnings.

"It's a very serious lapse on the part of the security agencies that they didn't tell us about it," the archbishop added.

He said he had sought an explanation from government officials but received nothing.

"They all say 'I didn't know about it. Everybody is passing the baby," Ranjith added.

The government blames the NTJ for the attacks and has warned that Islamist extremists could be plotting further blasts.

Sri Lanka is under a state of emergency. At least 74 people are in custody but security forces are hunting more Islamic State (IS) supporters.

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IS has claimed it was involved, without providing clear evidence.

"Due to the ongoing security situation and continuing threats... we have stopped all Sunday masses until further notice," Ranjith said.

He added that people should "stay indoors and do their prayers" and that only once the security situation had returned to normal would small services start to resume before gradually growing in size.

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