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Sri Lanka Easter Attack Probe Panel Summons Former PM Ranil Wickremesinghe

File photo of police officers work at the scene at St. Sebastian Catholic Church, after bomb blasts ripped through churches and luxury hotels on Easter, in Negombo, Sri Lanka on April 22, 2019. (Reuters)

File photo of police officers work at the scene at St. Sebastian Catholic Church, after bomb blasts ripped through churches and luxury hotels on Easter, in Negombo, Sri Lanka on April 22, 2019. (Reuters)

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 the Easter Sunday last year, killing 258 people, including 11 Indians.

Sri Lanka's former prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, who suffered a crushing defeat in the parliamentary polls, has been summoned by a presidential probe panel on August 18 to record his statement on the deadly Easter Sunday attacks, officials said on Tuesday.

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 the Easter Sunday last year, killing 258 people, including 11 Indians.

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

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who pledged an independent probe in the incident during his election campaign in November last year, continued with the same panel appointed by Sirisena after assuming office.

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The police unit of the panel appointed by then president Sirisena has asked Wickremesinghe to appear before them on August 18, officials said.

The development comes days after Wickremesinghe suffered a crushing defeat in the August 5 parliamentary election where he failed to enter parliament for the first time since 1977.

He and two of his seniors - Sagala Ratnayake and Ruwan Wijewardena - both former ministers who had police and defense responsibility in the government between 2015 and November 2019 - have also been summoned.

The Easter attack was one of the main reasons for the defeat of Wickremesinghe's government.

Several panels were appointed as the public outrage mounted against the government. The then police chief and the top defense ministry bureaucrat were remanded for their criminal negligence.