Sri Lanka shakes up intelligence agency after Easter attacks

COLOMBO (AFP) – Sri Lanka has for the first time named a military officer to head the country’s main intelligence agency, which was blamed for failing to prevent extremist bombings in April that killed 259 people.

The head of the State Intelligence Service (SIS) was replaced by brigadier Suresh Sallay, a former head of military intelligence, official sources said yesterday. It is the first time that a military officer has filled the position, and the appointment comes three weeks after Gotabaya Rajapaksa was elected president promising better security.

Rajapaksa effectively ran the security forces when the military crushed Tamil separatist militants in 2009 to end Sri Lanka’s bloody civil war. At the time his brother Mahinda Rajapaksa was president. A local extremist group was blamed for the coordinated Easter Sunday attacks against three luxury hotels and three churches on April 21.

A committee of parliament which investigated lapses leading to the devastating bombings found much of the responsibility lay with the then head of the SIS, Senior Deputy Inspector General Nilantha Jayawardena.