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FBI, Interpol to assist in investigations – Def Secy

Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando speaking to journalists outside the Kochchikade shrine

Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando said state authorities will be receiving FBI, Interpol and Australian Police assistance in the investigations into yesterday’s deadly bombings that killed 290 people.

Speaking to journalists outside the blast site at St. Anthony’s Shrine in Kochchikade earlier today, Fernando refused to reveal too many details, claiming it could hurt investigations, but acknowledged that some information had indeed been received by authorities prior to the attacks. However, he said the information received had been too vague to act upon.

“A small, but very well organised and powerful group was responsible. Most of the findings I will not be able to disclose because we’re still carrying out investigations. The FBI is here today. They’re helping us. Interpol is coming tomorrow,” he said, adding that Austrlaian Police personnel will also arrive and help the state authorities determine the precise nature of the attack.

“We’re going to dig into this and find out for sure what exactly happened, to prevent a similar attack in the future,” said Fernando.

Commenting on the allegations that the authorities had been privy to the possibility of an imminent catastrophe and yet failed to prevent it, the Defence Secretary said there was only so much that could’ve been done.

“There are many stories about how the Defence Ministry was aware of it. We knew certain things were happening. But this country is totally democratic today. There are no emergency laws; nothing. So there is hardly anything that we can also do,” he said.

Considering there were no emergency regulations in place, he said, apart from collecting information and the like, there was not much that could’ve been done. He also added that the information received was vague.

“This is a very unfortunate incident. We’re upset and very concerned about it. We will make sure that in time to come we will tighten security measures and see to it that nothing like this will take place again,” he said

Responding to questions by journalists, he further defended the Government’s alleged inaction.

“We had alerted the related agencies. Even at the height of the war, we never provided security to the hotels. Hotel security was looked after by their own security. Even in the future we’re not going to look after the hotels. We’re here to protect the general public,” said Fernando.

Asked about the lack of protection provided to the churches, he said: “How many churches could we have protected? We informed [them]. We never expected an attack of this magnitude. We had warnings, but not to this extent. It was isolated, one or two attacks here and there. We never expected it to be so big.”