A senior Sri Lankan Muslim leader Wednesday dismissed as “nonsense” the government’s view that the deadly attacks on Easter Sunday on churches and luxury hotels may have been a retaliation for last month’s massacre of Muslims in two mosques in New Zealand. Addressing an emergency session of Parliament on Tuesday to discuss the country’s worst terror attacks, state minister of defence Ruwan Wijewardene said the early findings of the ongoing probe found that the suicide bombings were in revenge for the March 15 killings at two mosques in Christchurch which left 50 people dead.
But Hilmy Ahamed, the Muslim Council of Sri Lanka’s vice president, did not buy the government’s version. Pointing to the relatively short period of time between the attacks, Ahamed said it was impossible for the bombings in Sri Lanka to have been planned in the period, saying it was likely in the works for longer, with foreign influence. The Islamic State terror group has claimed responsibility for the attacks in Sri Lanka, but did not mention New Zealand as a justification. “It is nonsense to link (the attacks) to New Zealand,” Ahamed told CNN.
“The New Zealand attack opened the eyes of the world to the crisis the Muslims are facing,” he said, adding it was something of “blessing” for drawing attention to growing Islamophobia worldwide. Five Indians were among 50 people killed in the ghastly terror attacks on two mosques in Christchurch which was carried out by 28-year-old Australia-born Brenton Tarrant reportedly targeted immigrants during Friday prayers. He also praised New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern for her response to the shootings, particularly for building connections between communities.
“We sent letters to the Nobel prize committee to award the peace prize to the New Zealand prime minister,” he said. “She definitely deserves the Nobel peace prize,” he added. Suicide bombers, believed to be members of an Islamist extremist group – the National Tawheed Jamath (NTJ) – carried out a series of devastating blasts that tore through three churches and luxury hotels in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday, killing 359 people, including 10 Indians, in the country’s worst terror attack. Authorities say they are looking into possible links between the locals who carried out the suicide bombings and the Islamic State group.