Sri Lanka to investigate allegations of official complicity in 2019 Easter bombings

Bombed-out hotel in Colombo, Sri Lanka
Six near-simultaneous suicide bombings in churches and tourist hotels in Sri Lanka in April 2019 killed 269 people.
(Chamila Karunarathne / Associated Press)
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Sri Lanka’s government will appoint a parliamentary committee to investigate allegations made in a British television report that Sri Lankan intelligence was complicit in the 2019 Easter Sunday bombings that killed 269 people.

Labor Minister Manusha Nanayakkara told Parliament on Tuesday that details on the investigation would be announced soon.

A man interviewed in videos aired by Britain’s Channel 4 said he had arranged a meeting between a local Islamic State-inspired group and a top state intelligence official to hatch a plot to create insecurity in Sri Lanka and enable Gotabaya Rajapaksa to win the presidential election later that year.


Azad Maulana was a spokesman for a breakaway group of the Tamil Tiger rebels that later became a pro-state militia and helped the government defeat the rebels and win Sri Lanka’s long civil war in 2009.

Rajapaksa was a top defense official during the war, and his older brother, Mahinda Rajapaksa, was defeated in the elections in 2015 after 10 years in power.

A group of Sri Lankans inspired by Islamic State carried out the six near-simultaneous suicide bomb- ings in churches and tourist hotels on April 21, 2019.

The attacks killed worshipers at Easter Sunday services, local residents and foreign tourists, and revived memories of the frequent bombings during the quarter-century civil war.

Fears over national security enabled Gotabaya Rajapaksa to sweep to power. He was forced to resign last year after mass protests over the country’s worst economic crisis.

In the Channel 4 program, Maulana said he arranged a meeting in 2018 between Islamic State-inspired extremists and a top intelligence officer at the behest of his boss at the time, Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan, the leader of the rebel splinter group-turned-political party.


Maulana said Chandrakanthan had met the group in prison while in detention on allegations of murder and found they could be useful to create insecurity in the country.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his wife left for the Maldives on a military plane hours before he was to resign amid Sri Lanka’s economic meltdown.

July 13, 2022

Maulana told Channel 4 that he did not participate in the meeting himself but that the intelligence officer told him later that creating insecurity was the only way to return the Rajapaksa family to power.

After security camera video of the bombings was released, Maulana recognized the faces of the attackers carrying bomb-laden backpacks as those whom he had arranged to meet the intelligence officer, Maulana said in the program.

Channel 4 reported that Maulana had been interviewed by United Nations investigators and European intelligence services over his claims.

Neither Chandrakanthan or Rajapaksa has commented on the claims.

Mahindananda Aluthgamage, a pro-Rajapaksa lawmaker, rejected the claims in the documentary. He told Parliament that Rajapaksa had no reason to set off bombs or use suicide bombers to get elected because public support was already on his side, as shown by the result of local elections in 2018.