Sri Lanka: Governments ignored Muslim warnings of growing militancy (VIDEO)

Top defence authorities of two consecutive governments in Sri Lanka have been heavily criticised for failing to take action against militant Islam State groups gearing for violence in Sri Lanka despite continuous warnings by traditional Muslim groups.

Muslim leaders made this shocking exposure following the bloodiest massacre in the island in ten years.

On Easter Sunday, suspected suicide bombers attacked Catholic churches and luxury hotels in Colombo and its suburbs killing at least 250. Islamic State (IS), a militant organization that emerged as an offshoot of al Qaeda in 2014 claimed responsibility.

The Sri Lankan government was forced to admit that intelligence reports received by authorities warning of imminent attacks had not been followed up. The attacks had been carried out by a pro ISIS group called National Thawheed Jamath (NTJ). Zahran Hashim who has been named as the leader was also killed in one alleged suicide attack, says the police.

Many mainstream Muslim leaders have revealed that they provided information on the rise of NTJ, its leader and its violent intentions.

Gotabaya "had all the details of IS

The top religious body of Islamic theologians in Sri Lanka says that information about NTJ was first handed over to defence officials almost five years ago, when Mahinda Rajapaksa was president.

“At that time the defence secretary was our respected Gotabhaya Rajapaksa,” leader of the All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama Mufti M.I.M. Rizwe told an inter religious meeting convened by President Maithripala Sirisena in the aftermath of the Easter Massacre.

“I gave all the documents to him: You have to take serious action on this. And two defence person was appointed. They had all the details of ISIS who are in Sri Lanka.”

Despite repeated offers of assistance to arrest pro ISIS militants, “they never did that” said the ACJU chief.

Once President Sirisena came to power in 2015, the ACJU had handed over details of Zahran Hashim to State Defence Minister Ruwan Wijewardena.

No arrests were made until the deadly series of attacks in Easter, 2019.

Within a week of the Easter Sunday blasts Sri Lanka’s police and security forces deployed in the Eastern province made a series of arrests.

In Sainthumarathu, police say that 15 were killed in a shootout and blasts. Six children were among the dead.

Muslim civil society warnings

The Federation of  Civil Society Organisations Kattankudy (FCSOK) based in the same area says that it also had alerted the present government in 2017 about Zahran, when he started his clandestine  "venomous campaigns".

"Sensing the perennial threat of his campaign to the peace and security of this country, we alerted the security authorities. Several petitions were sent up to the last moment by several responsible members of this community," FCSOK leaders MBM Firthous and MACM Jawahir said in a statement released to the press.

"Several petitions were sent up to the last moment by several responsible members of this community. But the steps to apprehend him were dragging and we could not understand why he could not be arrested. The mistake every one of us made is that we did not precisely understand the magnitude of his planning and affiliations."

"Saved" by Gotabaya

The governer of the Western Province, himself a Muslim, says that he also provided information of the danger posed by Zahran Hashim and his followers.

The information had been handed over to three defence secretaries in two governments, Asath Salley told a popular Colombo based TV channel.

Claiming that the ex head of Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI) Brigedier Tuan Suresh Sally was aware of the threat, the western governer alleged that the powerful defence secretary of the former government, Gotabaya Rajapaksa saved the NTJ from being apprehended.

"He (Gotabaya) was the one who saved Thawheed Jamath. Ask Sally," Asath Salley told Derana TV.

The former defence secretary rejects the allegations as unfounded.

In the wake of the Easter Massacre, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa announced his intention to run for presidency.

If he wins, his immediate focus would to be tackle the threat from radical Islam and to rebuild the security set-up, he told Reuters.

President Maithripala Sirisena has appointed a three member committee led by a retired judge to probe the killings.☐



Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka

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