Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena on Tuesday urged his countrymen not to marginalise Muslims after the Easter Sunday bombings that left 257 dead.
“Our intelligence reports say that the entire strength of the group responsible for the attacks is less than 150 and we should not do anything that drives more people to them,’’ Sirisena told a special parliamentary debate.
Sri Lanka’s parliament opened a two-day debate to discuss the aftermath of the suicidal attacks in three churches, three luxury hotels, and two other locations on April 21.
Sirisena said that 54 people directly involved in organising and carrying out the attacks were now in custody and 12 of them were hardcore terrorists.
The president urged the majority Sinhala community not to marginalise Muslims in a manner that would push them towards extremist groups, similar to the Sinhalese distancing themselves from the minority Tamils earlier.
The Tamil rebels, which started off as a small group in the late 70s, were able to strengthen their group after countrywide riots against the Tamils, leading to a 26-year conflict which ended in 2009.
The president’s appeal came a day after police backed by armed forces managed to contain attacks on Muslim-owned shops and houses in an area close to where one of the suicide bombers had carried out an attack.
Security forces and police are continuing searches throughout the island.