NZ Dy PM slams Sri Lanka-Christchurch terror link claim
Wellington: New Zealand’s Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters on Tuesday criticised suggestions that Sri Lanka’s Easter Sunday suicide bombings were in retaliation to the Christchurch mosque shootings, saying his country was being “misused”.
Sri Lanka’s State Minister of Defence Ruwan Wijewardene last week said that according to early investigations, the Easter carnage which claimed the lives of 253 people had been in revenge for the shootings at two New Zealand mosques on March 15 which killed 50 people.
But Peters, who is also New Zealand’s Foreign Minister, said his government had seen no evidence of a link and that expert advice suggested that the Sri Lankan bombings would have been planned well before the Christchurch terror attack.
“It’s a slightly cheap shot, I suppose, to try to explain it away. Let’s see the evidence,” Peters told Sky News.
“Sometimes it pays to … get the facts first before you beat your lips with an opinion.”
The Minister said it was a “fair suspicion” that the claim had been made to deflect from intelligence failings in Sri Lanka.
“We’re not going to stand here and have our country misused,” he added.
While the Islamic State claimed responsibility for the bloodbath, the Sri Lankan police have in recent days raided the headquarters of a hardline Islamist group — National Thowheed Jamath (NTJ) — founded by Zahran Hashim, the suspected ringleader of the bombings.
Authorities believe that Hashim masterminded and was one of the nine suicide bombers in the attacks.
According to reports, more than 100 people, including foreigners from Syria and Egypt, have been detained for questioning over the bombings.