Sri Lanka President Maithripala Sirisena said on Saturday the security forces would ‘eradicate terrorism’ following devastating suicide attacks on Easter Sunday and restore stability before a presidential election due by year-end.
Sirisena also said in an interview he believed Islamic State was behind the April 21 attacks, which targeted churches and luxury hotels and killed more than 250 people including 42 foreign nationals. The group has claimed responsibility.
‘Elections cannot be postponed, therefore before the elections I will bring about stability and I will eradicate terrorism,’ Sirisena told Reuters. The elections are likely to take place between Nov. 10 and Dec. 10.
‘We have already identified all active members of the group and it's a case of now arresting them,’ Sirisena said, adding that there were a further 25 to 30 ‘active members’ linked to the bombings still at large.
Sirisena said that all indications suggested Islamic State had been involved, adding: ‘It's crystal clear because after the attacks the IS organisation made an announcement claiming responsibility for the bombings.’
Sri Lanka authorities have previously said that they suspect the attackers had international links, although the precise nature of those connections is not known.
Police have said they are also investigating the possible involvement of two previously little-known groups - National Thawheedh Jamaath and Jammiyathul Millathu Ibrahim.
Sirisena said that intelligence services from eight countries, including the US Federal Bureau of Investigation and Interpol, were helping Sri Lanka with the investigation.
Local intelligence officials believe that Zahran Hashim, a radical Tamil-speaking preacher from the east of the Indian Ocean island nation, may have been a key player in plotting the Easter bombings. Officials believe he was one of nine suicide bombers.