Will never allow extremism to 'raise its head again' in Lanka: President Gotabaya on Easter blasts

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Colombo, Feb 4 (PTI) Asserting that he will never allow extremism to 'raise its head again' in Sri Lanka, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Thursday said he has received the final report of a panel probing the 2019 Easter Sunday blasts and his government will bring the perpetrators to justice.

Nine suicide bombers belonging to local Islamist extremist group National Thawheed Jamaat (NTJ) linked to ISIS carried out a series of devastating blasts that tore through three churches and as many luxury hotels on April 21, 2019, killing 258 people, including 11 Indians.

The previous government headed by President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was blamed for its inability to prevent the deadly attacks despite the prior intelligence made available on the impending terror strikes.

Addressing the nation marking the 73rd anniversary of Independence, Rajapaksa said he has received the final report of the presidential commission appointed to inquire into the Easter Sunday attacks, the Colombo Page internet newspaper reported.

'I have already given instructions to implement its recommendations,' he said, without disclosing the content of the report.

'Action will be taken against all parties involved in this tragedy. We will not allow those responsible for designing and enabling this tragedy to escape justice. We will never allow extremism to raise its head again, in this country,' Rajapaksa said.

The president said he has advised the Attorney General's department to swiftly act upon matters that have caused great concern to the public, such as the Easter Sunday attacks and the Central Bank scam.

Noting that Lanka from time to time has to face religious and ethnic conflicts, racist and terrorist activities, 'undue external influences, constitutional crises, and many other obstacles', Rajapaksa said, 'The challenges of establishing national security, achieving true reconciliation amongst various communities of our nation, and building a strong economy that can deliver sustainable economic development and eliminate poverty still lie ahead of us.' 'At a juncture when our nation’s heritage, its traditions, its national identity and patriotism were under serious threat, more than 6.9 million people elected me as president to provide the leadership needed to reestablish national security and overcome the many challenges facing our country,' he said.

Rajapaksa, a former defence chief, had stormed to victory in the 2019 presidential polls, promising stringent security in the wake of the island's worst terror attack that killed nearly 270 people on Easter and brought to the fore the deep-rooted differences within the unity government. He took oath as President on November 18, 2019.

The Buddhist-majority nation was about to mark a decade since ending a 37-year-long Tamil separatist war in May 2009 when the suicide bombings in 2019 rocked the country. PTI SCY AKJ SCY SCY