A foreign national may have been behind the Easter Sunday bombings in Sri Lanka, the president said on Wednesday, as he told Islamic State to leave his country alone.
President Maithripala Sirisena warned in an interview that the attacks against churches and hotels in which more than 250 people died could signal a “new strategy” by IS to hit smaller countries that make softer targets than more powerful nations.
He said there are clear links between the attackers and IS, possibly including training. Asked whether there could be a foreign mastermind, the president said: “That is quite possible, given the phone calls they were making and the fact that some of them had received training abroad, and the fact that IS leaders have already made statements… admitting links to Sri Lanka – that is something we can assume.”
CCTV footage has emerged showing some of the eight suicide bombers on 21 April using their mobile phones as they prepared to hit their targets. President Sirisena said: “It is quite possible they were getting in touch with the people abroad who were helping them.
“It is also quite possible they were getting in touch with the rest of their group in Sri Lanka. The two assumptions we’ve made so far.” Islamic State has said it was behind the killings, posting a video last week of eight suspects pledging allegiance to Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, the IS leader.
He said: “When IS was at height of their power… they targeted the most powerful countries in the world, from the EU to the UK to Indonesia. They attacked a large number of countries, including Australia and other countries.
“At that time – smaller countries were not really their target. Right now I’m left with the question as to why they targeted Sri Lanka. It is possible they have launched a new plan, a new strategy – like you suggested.”