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Sri Lankan President asks police chief, defence secretary to quit following attacks

Sri Lanka's President Maithripala Sirisena. Photograph:( AFP )

WION Web Team New Delhi, Delhi, India Apr 24, 2019, 10.47 PM (IST)

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena has asked the police chief and defence secretary to quit following the Easter Sunday suicide bomb attacks on churches and luxury hotels that killed 359 people, two sources close to the president said on Wednesday.

The sources declined to be named due to the sensitivity of the matter amid accusations within the government of intelligence failures ahead of the attacks. 

Lakshman Kiriella, minister of public enterprise, told parliament on Wednesday that senior officials deliberately withheld intelligence about possible attacks on Sri Lanka.

"Some top intelligence officials hid the intelligence information purposefully. Information was there, but the top brass security officials did not take appropriate actions," Lakshman Kiriella, who is also minister of public enterprise, told parliament.

He said information on possible suicide attacks on churches, hotels and politicians were received from Indian intelligence on April 4 and a Security Council meeting was chaired by President Maithripala Sirisena on April 7, but the information was not shared more widely.

"Somebody is controlling these top intelligence officials," the minister said. "The Security Council is doing politics. We need to investigate into this."

Separately, Sarath Fonseka, former army chief and minister of regional development, told parliament he believed the attacks "must have been planned for at least 7-8 years".

The death toll from series of deadly attacks in Sri Lanka has risen to 359 after several people died overnight due to injuries, police said on Wednesday.

The attacks which targetted churches and hotels wounded around 500 people.

Nearly 60 people have been detained since the Sunday blasts.

Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the coordinated bombings in the capital.

One of the nine bombers that detonated explosives was a woman, deputy defence minister Ruwan Wijewardene told reporters on Wednesday.

(With inputs from agencies)

Story highlights

The sources declined to be named due to the sensitivity of the matter amid accusations within the government of intelligence failures ahead of the attacks.