Army Chief does not rule out possibility of lone wolf attacks

Mahesh Senanayake - Sri Lanka Army Chief

Army Commander Lt. Gen. Mahesh Senanayake, yesterday, told the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) probing the Easter Sunday carnage that there was still the possibility of terrorist attacks.

Testifying before the PSC, Lt. Gen. Senanayake said: “There is still room for attacks similar to the Easter Sunday carnage. There is the possibility of what we call lone wolf attacks. Next time it might not be bombs and guns. They could use vehicles, knives, water or fire to strike a disaster and kill similar number. That threat is still there.”

The PSC members present, yesterday, were Minister Dr Rajitha Senaratne, Minister Ravi Karunanayake, Prof Ashu Marasinghe, M.A. Sumanthiran, Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka, Chairman Ananda Kumarasiri, Rauff Hakeem and Dr. Jayamapathy Wickramaratne.

Field Marshal Fonseka: Terrorist do not need a team of trained combatants. They need only a single highly motivated cadre to carry out such an attack.

Lt Gen Senanayake: Yes, that is the nature of a lone wolf Attack. That way terrorists could wreak maximum destruction at minimum cost.

Chairman Kumarasiri: There were reports that you came under the influence of Minister Rishad Bathiudeen to release some terror suspects. Is that true?

Lt. Gen. Senanayake: No one has influenced me to release any one in custody over the terrorism charges.

Chairman Kumarasiri: But he called you and inquired about some terror suspects.

LT Gen Senanayake: Yes, he called me thrice to inquire about a suspect by the name of Ahmed. Soon after the Easter Sunday attacks, the Minister called me and asked whether we had in our custody a suspect by that name. I told him that I have no information but I could check and let him know. When he called a second time I still did not have the information. Third time, I had the information, and I confirmed to the minister that there was a terror suspect in our custody by that name and he had been taken in from Dehiwala and asked him to make inquiries one and a half years later.

Field Marshal Fonseka: How did you know that the person under the custody had links with extremists?

LT Gen Senanayake: There was a network of them and we had information about them.

Field Marshal Fonseka: How come you gave exactly one and a half years?

LT Gen Senanayake: The suspect was taken into custody under the Prevention of Terrorism Act and the charges were of severe nature. Soon after taking in such a person, it is our duty to hand him or her over to the Terrorist Investigation Division of the police within 24 hours. Thereafter they could detain such a suspect for one and a half years. The period has now been reduced to one year. With my experience of dealing with similar cases and as per the charges, I know it would take that much time at least.

Minister Karunanayake: What do you think of the current security situation? Are we in a secure position?

LT Gen Senanayake: It is not practical or correct to say that this problem is completely over. It is still there. We are making arrangements to coordinate our security forces and intelligence officers to ensure public security. We have received the support of intelligence communities of the neighbouring countries. We are coordinating with everyone responsible to ensure that there would be no incidences, but the threat and the possibility of disaster striking again are there. That is for sure.

Minister Karunanayake: Do you think that the arrest of intelligence community members under various charges and incarceration of them had led to the breakdown of security establishment?

Lt Gen Senanayake: There can be some effect but stating that such actions would lead for the collapse of entire intelligence mechanism is wrong.

The rest of the testimony was recorded in camera.

(Source: The Island – By Saman Indrajith)