Sri Lanka Was Warned 'Hours Before' Easter Suicide Attacks, Sources Say

Indian intelligence officers reportedly contacted their Sri Lankan counterparts two hours before the first attack to warn of a specific threat on churches

People attend a mass burial of victims near St. Sebastian Church in Negombo, Sri Lanka April 23, 2019.
\ ATHIT PERAWONGMETHA/ REUTERS

Sri Lankan intelligence officials were tipped off about an imminent attack by Islamist militants hours before a series of suicide bombings killed more than 300 people on Easter Sunday, three sources with direct knowledge of the matter said.

Three churches and four hotels were hit by suicide bombers on Sunday morning, killing 321 people and wounding 500, sending shockwaves through an island state that has been relatively peaceful since a civil war ended a decade ago.

>> Read more: Israel offers assistance following bomb attacks in Sri LankaSri Lanka bombings follow a troubled recent history marked by war | Explained

Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attacks on Tuesday, without providing evidence of its involvement.

Indian intelligence officers contacted their Sri Lankan counterparts two hours before the first attack to warn of a specific threat on churches, one Sri Lankan defense source and an Indian government source said.

Another Sri Lankan defense source said a warning came "hours before" the first strike.

One of the Sri Lankan sources said a warning was also sent by the Indians on Saturday night. The Indian government source said similar messages had been given to Sri Lankan intelligence agents on April 4 and April 20.

Sri Lanka's presidency and the Indian foreign ministry both did not respond to requests for comment.