Easter terror attacks rejuvenated religious harmony in Sri Lanka: Foreign Secretary

Abu Dhabi, Nov 18 (PTI) After the deadly Easter Sunday attacks on churches and posh hotels in Sri Lanka killed over 260 people, the country has witnessed a 'rejuvenation of interfaith harmony', according to Lanka's diplomat.

The attack claimed by Islamic State group-linked militants on April 21, targeted Catholic churches and high-end hotels across the island, leaving 269 people dead and injured many others.

'The church was the first to say 'don't harm anybody for what happened to us.' Then Buddhist clergy came on-board,' Sri Lankan Foreign Secretary Ravinatha P Aryasinha official told the official Emirates News Agency, WAM during a visit to Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates.

'The most striking thing was that we got tremendous support from the Muslim community to ensure that there was no recurrence of such incidents,' he said, adding that 'there has been a rejuvenation of interfaith amity.' He said the Muslim community in Sri Lanka helped the security forces to eliminate the terror network after the incidents.

'Within four days we got the whole network eliminated. Either they killed themselves or they were killed in the raids (conducted by the security forces) in eastern part of the country. We also picked up the next layer of their leadership,' the top diplomat said, referring to the previously little-known group called the National Thowheed Jamath (NTJ) and its members.

That was possible only because of the Muslim community's support, Aryasinha said.

Sri Lanka’s security forces, hardened after three-decade long fight with terrorism, also played a crucial role in helping the country bounce back to normal quickly after the incidents, he said.

Interestingly, the issue of security after the Easter Sunday attack was one of the top concerns of the Sri Lankan voters in Saturday's presidential polls, won by former wartime defence secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

The Sri Lankan government has acknowledged that it had suffered a 'major intelligence lapse', with the defence secretary revealing an Indian intelligence warning about the planned attacks was not properly shared by the concerned authorities. PTI AKJ AKJ