DRUG gangs were behind Easter bombings, claims Lankan president.

Colombo : International drug syndicates orchestrated Sri Lana's deadly Easter Sunday bombings, the country's leader claimed on Monday, despite earlier blaming the attacks on Islamists

The statement comes amid a nationwide narcotics crackdown, with President Maithripala Sirisensa aiming to reintroduce capital punishment for drug offenses.

Authorities have said local Jihadist group National Thowheeth Jama'ath [NTJ] were responsible for the suicide bombings in churches and hotels that killed at least 258 people in April. The attacks were later claimed by the militants Islamic State group.

Sirisena's office said the day after the bombings that local terrorists and international terror groups were responsible for the attacks.

But in a statement issued by his office on Monday, Sirisens said the ''attacks were the work of international drug dealers''.

''Drug barons carried out these attacks to discredit me and discourage my anti-narcotics drive. I will not be deterred,'' he said.

Sirisena is waging a battle against efforts by his governing coalition in parliament to abolish capital punishment, which has been subject to moratorium since 1976.

A spokesman for Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesighe discounted the president's claims. ''Police completed the investigations within about two weeks,'' Sudarshana Gunawardana said.

''There is no mention of drug dealers being involved. We have no reasons to doubt our investigators.''

He said speedier justice would be a bigger deterrent to drug traffickers than the threat of capital punishment.

''We don't believe in hanging people will address the issue, especially considering that it takes several decades to get a conviction.'' Sri Lankan courts take an average of 17 years to complete criminal trials for grave offenses such as murder and rape.

Gunawardana said Wicremesinghe was opposed to capital punishment as it was against the policy of his United National Party, and noted that there was a cross-bench support in in the legislature to completely abolish it.

Police officials said investigations into the April 21 suicide bombings were still ongoing, and all the more than 100 people in custody were Sri Lankans.

''We are going on the basis that this was a crime planned and executed by a group of radicalized Sri Lankan Muslims,'' a senior police official said, asking not to be named.

''Everyone involved in the attacks is either dead or in custody,'' Sirisena has marshalled public support for an end to moratorium on the death penalty, saying that hangings would deter the illegal drug trade. [AFP]


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