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Errors Raise Questions About Sri Lankan Response to Bombing

[An American student faces vitriol after her image was wrongly published in a wanted alert.]

Somehow a photo of Ms. Majeed, a prominent Muslim activist and the daughter of Sri Lankan immigrants, ended up on Sri Lanka’s most-wanted alert, next to the name of a real suspect, Fathima Qadiya.

The police quickly put out a statement saying it was a mistake, and privately officials blamed a small, low-level team led by an assistant police superintendent, who had misused a facial recognition program to find the photograph.

The police alert was labeled “CID Ok,” suggesting that the Criminal Investigations Department, the country’s top investigative body, had approved the release of the photos.

A government official, asked how the C.I.D. could have approved a blatantly wrong photo, said that it had been stretched thin and had gotten little support from other security agencies.

Neither statement completely clarified how Ms. Majeed’s picture ended up in the police bulletin.

The inability of the government to respond to repeated warnings and to effectively deal with the crisis are signs of what Dr. Harinda Vidanage, the director of the Colombo-based Bandaranaike Center for International Studies, called a “meltdown of governance.”

Prime Minister Wickremesinghe seemed to acknowledge as much on Friday in an address to the nation.

While maintaining that he was not privy to the intelligence warnings, he said, “I cannot use this fact to absolve myself from responsibility.”

“As the prime minister of Sri Lanka, I accept collective government responsibility for the failure to protect people from these attacks,” he said. “As a government, I extend my sincerest apology to all citizens, for our failures. I hold myself accountable. And I am committed to ensuring these failures will never happen again.”

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