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Ex- SDIG of CID tells PCoI Zahran, his cadres had been planning attacks from 2017

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

National Thowheed Jamaat (NTJ) leader Zahran Hashim and his associates had initially planned to carry out a suicide attack in 2020, former SDIG of the CID, Ravi Seneviratne on Friday night told the PCoI investigating the Easter Sunday attacks.

Seneviratne said that while they were aware of Zahran’s ideology, it was during the CID investigations into the Jihadist Training Camp at Wanathawilluwa that they had found his direct involvement with extremists.

Seneviratne had earlier said that they presented former IGP Pujith Jayasundara with a report on the Jihadist training camp and information elicited from the suspects arrested at the camp on January 26, 2019. However, as the IGP was banned from attending the National Security Council (NSC), the report could not be sent there.

The AG’s Department representative leading the evidence asked the witness if he had also received a letter in early April 2019, sent by former Director of the State Intelligence Service (SIS) SDIG Nilantha Jayawardena about a possible terrorist attack.

“Jayawardena sent it to the former IGP on April 09, 2019 about the attacks. On April 16, 2019, I got a copy of the letter from Jayasundara. I was out of the country on an official visit and I only came to office on April 16. We were to arrest those who were mentioned in the letter. So I forwarded the letter to Director of the CID, Shani Abeysekera and ASP Wickramasekera. But Shani had only seen the letter on April 23, 2019, after the attack.”

The AG’s Department representative then asked the witness if he had received a text message from the former SIS Director on the morning of April 21 warning that an attack would take place on that day. The former SDIG said had seen that text after the bomb explosions.

The AG’s Department official said: “After the attacks, MP Harin Fernando told the media that his father had asked him not to go to Church on April 21. From what was revealed at the PCoI, police sergeant Nandalal, who was involved in CID investigations into the Mawanella Buddha statue vandalisation and the Wanathawilluwa Jihadist camp, had called Harin’s father on April 20 night. It is likely that Nandalal warned him of the attacks. How would CID officials know about such an attack on April 20?”

Seneviratne said that although he was not aware how Nandalal had received information about the attacks, Nilantha Jayawardena, on April 20, had informed him that a terror attack would take place on April 21. “I shared that information with Shani and ASP Wickramesekera,” the witness said.

Seneviratne also told the PCoI about NTJ preparations for the attacks. The witness said that Zahran and his associates were planning to carry out an attack from 2017. Unhappy about the progress they had made in 2018, Zahran had asked Shaheed Abdul-Haq, who was behind vandalizing Buddha statues in Mawanella, to attack the statues.

Seneviratne said: “Zahran also asked those who were with him, if they wanted to become fighters or suicide bombers. While Zahran was away, NTJ members decided to carry out suicide attacks outside Sri Lanka. However Zahran then motivated them to carry out attacks here. They decided that the attacks should take place in 2020. However, by the first week of April 2019, Zahran decided to launch the attack as soon as possible. Although there were initial disagreements, NTJ members agreed by April 09 and by April 17, they decided to launch the attacks on Easter Sunday, which fell on April 21. Looking at these revelations I felt that Zahran was being handled by someone else. I wanted to find out who this was before I retired.”

At his point the AG’s Department official wrote a name on a piece of paper and showed it to Seneviratne . “Could this be the person?” he asked the witness.

“Yes, it is possible. The name you showed me had worked with Zahran,” Seneviratne said.

The former SDIG overseeing the CID also revealed that NTJ had arranged for a hiding place where those who failed to carry out the suicide attack could gather. “This was a place of worship in Colombo. The person who failed to carry out the attack should get there and tell another person that he was there. Then a person would come to pick up the unsuccessful attacker and take him to a safe house.”

Seneviratne also wrote the name of the person who was to transport the unsuccessful attackers into a safe house. The witness said that person had been arrested.

“We must find out those who handled Zahran. Until they are revealed, the threat to national security will always be there,” he said.

Members of the PCoI also asked Seneviratne if the NTJ had received financial aid from an Islamic State. The witness said that the CID had not been able to find such a link. “We found about 42 bank accounts belonging to this group. They all belong to Sri Lankans and the money had been provided by the Ibrahim brothers (Mohamed Ibrahim Insaf Ahmed who carried out the suicide bombing at Cinnamon Grand Hotel in Colombo and Mohamed Ibrahim Ilham Ahmed who carried out the suicide bombing at Shangri- La hotel in Colombo).”

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Foreign force behind Easter Sunday attacks – Sirisena

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

A powerful foreign country or an agency was behind the Easter Sunday bombings and the National Thowheed Jamaat (NTJ) leader Zaharan Hashim, former President Maithripala Sirisena yesterday told the PCoI investigating the Easter Sunday attacks.

“I also do not believe that Zaharan was the leader of that organisation. Because a leader would never have initiated a suicide attack and died during the first wave,” Sirisena said.

The former President also said that Islamic extremism had spread rapidly in the country due to the support extremists received from Muslim politicians.

Sirisena also said that the military and intelligence officials had been demoralised by harassment they suffered during the yahaalanaya administration. This was the reason why local institutions failed to uncover NTJ’s plans. “But this incident is a conspiracy because it appeared that Zaharan was being manipulated by some foreign hand,” the former President said.

The President further said that during the previous administration, UNPers had headed the Ministry of Law and Order for several years that they had significantly weakened the intelligence services. Although he had taken the Ministry of law and Order in the last stages of the yahapalana government, he had not been able to undo the damage the UNP had done in four years, the witness said.

Commissioner: “Did you know that during your tenure as President, Muslim MPs and ministers were forcible acquiring land in Vanni and Batticaloa and they were constructing Muslim villages and mosques there?”

Sirisena: “Some ministers used their political power to clear forests and cultivate lands. Some ministers were angry with me when I tried to stop them. I tried hard to control those actions. But it was difficult for me to deal with that situation. Fundamentalism rose due to the protection given by Muslim political leaders. Certain political parties are based on religion, race and language. This is disastrous. I tried to stop these people but my decisions were not implemented.”

 

 

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Bathiudeen granted bail

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Former Minister Rishad Bathiudeen was released on bail by the Fort Magistrate’s Court yesterday. Fort Magistrate Priyantha Liyanage released Bathiudeen on cash bail of Rs. 100,000 with two sureties of one million rupees each.

The Magistrate also imposed a travel ban on Bathiudeen and said that the guarantors should be his close relatives.

The Magistrate granted bail to the MP considering the risk of him contracting COVID-19 as two inmates in cells next to his had recently tested positive for coronavirus.

Bathiudeen was remanded in connection with alleged misappropriation of public funds during the last presidential election to transport voters.

The former minister has been accused of misusing 222 buses owned by the SLTB for transporting internally displaced persons from Puttalam to polling stations in Silavathurai, Mannar during the 2019 Presidential Election. Two others, Mohamed Yaseen Samsudeen and Alagarathnam Manoranjan face the same charges.

They have allegedly violated Article 82(1) of Presidential Elections Act, No. 15 of 1981 by misappropriating public funds amounting to Rs. 9.5 million.

Bathiudeen was arrested at an apartment complex at Ebenezer Place in Dehiwala in the early hours of October 19. He was then produced before the court and placed under remand custody. His bail application was also rejected by the magistrate’s court on several occasions

 

 

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Zahran supported Sirisena and SLMC at 2015 elections, Hizbullah tells PCoI

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

National Thawheed Jamaat (NTJ) and its leader Zahran Hashim supported Former President Maithripala Sirisena and the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) at the 2015 elections, former Eastern Province Governor M.L.A.M Hizbullah, on Tuesday night, told the PCoI probing the Easter Sunday attacks.

Hizbullah was giving evidence before the PCoI for the second day.

“Zahran supported the SLMC at the 2015 general election. After the UNP-led coalition won the election, NTJ members fought with our supporters. Several people were injured during the clash, including Zahran’s brother. SLMC leader Rauff Hakeem visited Zahran’s brother at the hospital.”

The witness also submitted a footage of a demonstration opposite NTJ Headquarters in Kattankudy. It contained a speech by Zahran, who expressed his dismay after Sirisena appointed Hizbullah as a national list MP.

“In this video, Zahran clearly says he supported Maithripala Sirisena at the 2015 presidential election. Zahran also says he sent a fax to the former President, urging him not to appoint me to Parliament.”

However, it was earlier revealed that in 2015, representatives of five recognised political parties, including the UPFA and the UNP, had signed agreements with Zahran in the run-up to the 2015 general election. Representatives of Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC,) Democratic Party, UNP, UPFA and National Front for Good Governance (NFGG), too, had signed agreements with Zahran in exchange for NTJ support, the Commission was told.

Hizbullah, on Monday, admitted that his party had also signed an agreement with the NTJ.

“Zahran told social media that he would support any politician who agreed to his proposals. All the parties joined him. I also went along.”

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