Sri Lanka authorities warned of Easter church bombings weeks before Sunday’s massacre, officials say

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Weeks before coordinated bombings ripped through churches and luxury hotels — killing nearly 300 people on Easter Sunday — authorities in Sri Lanka received warnings a domestic radical Muslim group would attack the nation on the Christian holy day.

Despite multiple warnings from international intelligence agencies, however, Sri Lanka’s security officials reportedly failed to heed the alerts and apparently took no action to protect against a potential attack. Authorities were first alerted to the threat April 4.

More than two weeks later, near-simultaneous blasts detonated at three churches and three luxury hotels in and around Colombo, the capital city. Two more explosions occurred hours later outside of Colombo – one at a guesthouse and the other near an overpass.

At least 290 people – including 39 foreigners – were killed and more than 500 people were injured. The government on Monday said the attacks were likely perpetrated by local militant group National Thowfeek Jamaath, a little-known radical Islamist organization.

Experts told the New York Times the group promotes an Islamic terrorist ideology.

“These attacks appear to be quite different and look as if they came right out of the ISIS, Al Qaeda, global militant jihadist playbook, as these are attacks fomenting religious hatred by attacking multiple churches on a high religious holiday,” Anne Speckhard, the director of the International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism, told the newspaper.

Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne said international agencies warned of possible attacks several times beginning in early April. He said the defense ministry wrote to the police chief on April 9 to give law enforcement a heads up about the intelligence, including providing the group’s name. – READ MORE

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