Sri Lanka-Christchurch Link A 'Cheap Shot', Says New Zealand Deputy PM
New Zealand's deputy prime minister has criticised suggestions Sri Lanka's Easter Sunday bombings were linked to the Christchurch shootings, saying his country is being "misused".
Sri Lanka's deputy minister for defence, Ruwan Wijewardene, last week said early investigations found the bombing of churches and hotels that killed 253 people had been in retaliation over the Christchurch terror attack, which saw 50 worshippers massacred inside two mosques on March 15.
But on Tuesday, New Zealand Foreign Minister Winston Peters reiterated his government had seen no evidence of a link.
He said expert advice suggested the Sri Lankan bombings would have been planned from well before the Christchurch terror attack.
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"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."
Peters said it was a "fair suspicion" the claim had been made to deflect away from intelligence failings in Sri Lanka.
"We're not going to stand here and have our country misused," Peters said.
Days after the Easter attack, Wijewardene said Sri Lanka's intelligence officials believed the Christchurch massacre had been a "motivational factor" for the suicide bombers.
"Several months ago, the group believed responsible for the attack had defaced Buddhist statues and attacked a temple and church in Sri Lanka, but not to this magnitude," Wijewardene told media at a press conference.
"What we have found out is that there have been two safe houses... it would have been easy for them to plan out these attacks."
"Sri Lanka is not a vast country ... I believe this group has been at some point thinking of making some kind of attack, but I believe, according to the agency, that the Christchurch incident will have motivated them to carry it out on Easter Sunday."
New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has also questioned the link, saying her government was not aware of any intelligence suggesting that the devastating attack on Sri Lanka was in retaliation for Christchurch.
“Sri Lanka will be in the very early stages of its investigations," she said last week.
"So we are simply stepping back and allowing them to undertake those, but we have nothing at this stage to corroborate what is being said."
While Islamic State has claimed responsibility, Sri Lankan police have in recent days raided the headquarters of a hardline Islamist group, the National Thawheedh Jamaath, founded by the suspected ringleader of the bombings.
The authorities believe Zahran Hashim masterminded and was one of the nine suicide bombers in the attacks.
More than 100 people, including foreigners from Syria and Egypt, have been detained for questioning over the bombings.