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Sri Lankan Church seeks probe into warnings of church attacks

Confusion reigns after navy's warnings of impending attacks on churches were retracted

UCA News reporter, Colombo

UCA News reporter, Colombo

Published: September 30, 2021 06:15 AM GMT

Updated: September 30, 2021 09:10 AM GMT

Sri Lankan Church seeks probe into warnings of church attacks

Catholic priests pay their respects at a graveyard for St. Sebastian's Church bomb blast victims in Negombo on April 21, marking the second anniversary of the 2019 Easter Sunday attacks that killed 279 people at three churches and three hotels. (Photo: AFP)

The Sri Lankan Church has urged the government to probe reports of possible attacks on churches in the Archdiocese of Colombo.

Naval officials on Sept. 28 informed several churches to be on alert for attacks.

Father Cyril Gamini, former director of the National Catholic Center for Social Communications, said navy officials have received information about possible attacks on churches in Bopitiya, Wattala, Ragama and Weligampitiya.

"A group of naval officers informed us that there may be a possible attack and later they said it was a mistake, so there is a big problem with national security," Father Gamini said at a Sept. 29 press conference in Colombo.

The priest said there is still confusion over the warnings despite the apology tendered by the navy commander who had claimed the warnings were false.

"Can one play around with the country's security in this manner?" he asked, adding that a probe should be carried out to find out who was behind the warnings and their motives. "We wonder whether to keep the churches closed or not.” 

Father Gamini said there must have been an order from somewhere to tell these officials to inform churches about possible attacks

"If there is a danger of an attack, then all that needs to be done is to formally inform Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, someone from the Ministry of Defense or the Intelligence Service who can be officially held accountable,” Father Gamini added.

State agencies received specific warnings about possible terror attacks ahead of the Easter Sunday attacks in 2019 but the information was not properly shared by authorities.

Father Gamini said there must have been an order from somewhere to tell these officials to inform churches about possible attacks.

"The navy commander spoke to Cardinal Ranjith after the reports of fresh warnings and apologized. They informed Cardinal Ranjith that the warnings of the new attacks were false," said Father Gamini.

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The Church has urged the inspector general of police to undertake a comprehensive investigation into the recent statement by Ven. Galagodaaththe Gnanasara Thera about the possibility of another extremist attack at any time.

Bishops, civic rights activists and opposition parties expressed concern and displeasure with the current investigation into the Easter attacks.

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa's visit to Italy on Sept. 10 sparked controversy after Cardinal Ranjith claimed the tour was an attempt to mislead the Vatican about the probe into the attacks. Several demonstrations took place demanding justice in Italy.

Protests were also staged in the US demanding justice for the Easter victims when President Gotabaya Rajapaksa attended the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York last week.

“Who will take responsibility in the government? They come in the morning and say there's an attack in the evening. Now the evening comes and they say it's a mistake," said Father Sagara Hettiarachchi.

The Ministry of Defense said the news was not confirmed by the relevant authorities. Secretary General of Defense Kamal Gunaratne said there is no cause for concern over the incident.

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