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Sri Lanka appoints 6-member team to expedite probe

Colombo: The Sri Lankan government on Sunday appointed a six-member team to help police collect authentic information and expedite an ongoing presidential probe into the devastating Easter Sunday terror attack that killed over 250 people.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa decided to hasten the probe into the April 21 attack which had proved crucial in his decisive electoral victory last November. Rajapaksa used the Easter Sunday terrorist attack to portray himself as the leader who could stop terrorism.

The voters gave him a big mandate and elected him as President in November last year. Rajapaksa stormed to victory, trouncing his nearest rival Sajith Premadasa by a margin of over 13 lakh votes – 52.25 per cent of votes polled against 41.99 per cent.

The 6-member task force has been appointed to help police’s CID to “speed up the ongoing investigations” and will submit weekly reports to the defense ministry on the progress of investigation, according to a statement.

“The CID investigation into these attacks was not conducted in an effective way by the last regime,” defense ministry secretary Kamal Gunaratne was quoted as saying in the statement.

The team has been tasked to “collect authentic information and evidence to take legal action against all those involved in supporting the extremists”.

Nine suicide bombers belonging to local Islamist extremist group National Thawheed Jamaat (NTJ) linked to ISIS carried out a series of devastating blasts that tore through three churches and three luxury hotels on the Easter Sunday, killing 258 people, including 11 Indians.

The previous government was blamed for its inability to prevent the attacks in spite of the prior intelligence made available.

The Muslim minority party leaders who were ministers in the previous government were alleged to have supported the Jihadis.

Head of a local Catholic church Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith early this week said though the parliamentary panel of the previous government was a cover up, yet he was happy with the presidential probe appointed by Rajapaksa’s predecessor Maithripala Sirisena.

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