Easter Sunday attacks – Mastermind not Zaharan: Ex-SDIG

ISIS released this image of Sri Lanka bombing attackers and their leader Zahran Hashim

Former State Intelligence Service (SIS) Director SDIG Nilantha Jayawardena yesterday informed the PCoI probing Easter Sunday attacks that mastermind of the Easter Sunday bombings was not Zaharan, but his mentor Nawfar Moulavi.

“He has been living in Qatar for several years and had been identified as having various foreign links. This person has inspired Zaharan and others like what Anton Balasingham did by inspiring those connected to the Liberation of Tamil Tigers Eelam (LTTE),” he said.

Mr. Jayawardene said he had discussed the whereabouts of National Thowheed Jamaat (NTJ) Leader Zahran Hashim at National Security Council meetings after 2017.

When questioned by a representative from the Attorney General’s department about a report submitted by a Deputy Director of the SIS to then Chief of National Intelligence (CNI) Sisira Mendis regarding the activities of NTJ leader Zaharan Hashim, Mr. Jayawardena said the particular report contained details of a statement made by Zaharan that those who insulted the Islamic State (IS) should fear Allah.

“The report also included that Zaharan was hiding in his wife’s house in the Narammala area following a clash in 2017 between the NTJ and another organization calling itself Sunnatul Wal Jama’at and that there was a risk of an attack by Islamic State ideological groups,” he said.

Responding to a question asked by the PCoI as to when that report had been submitted to Mr. Mendis, Mr. Jayawardena said it was submitted about 10 months prior to the bombings.

The fact that Zaharan was hiding in the Narammala area had also been conveyed by Mr. Jayawardena at the NSC meetings and that after the attacks, information came to light that NTJ leader Zaharan was considered a hero by IS ideologues.

Mr. Jayawardena told the PCoI that the formation of separate ministries for each religion had caused various issues between religions in the recent past and the ministers in charge of these ministries kept promoting their respective religions, but those activities were not properly regulated.

He said a report was sent to the then Law and Order minister Ranjith Madduma Bandara mentioning that there could be some conflict between religions due to the maintenance of places of worship without proper procedures such as the construction of mosques with foreign aid.

Mr. Jayawardene said he had taken steps to make these matters known at the National Security Council (NSC) meetings.

Meanwhile, representatives from the AG’s Department, drew the attention of the Commissioners to the fact that witnesses who have testified in the past have reported that the construction of mosques with foreign aid was not regulated by the Department of Muslim Religious Affairs.

“I took steps to inform the NSC about conversion of non-Muslims to Islam too,” he said.

When asked by the Commissioners as to whether he, as the Director of the SIS, was aware of the incident where Pulastini Mahendran alias Sarah Jasmine, the wife of Mohammed Hastun, who detonated the suicide bomb at St. Sebastian’s Church in Katuwapitiya, was forcibly converted to Islam by Abdul Razik, Mr. Jayawardena said he knew about it.

A member of the PCoI then questioned him as to what action had been taken by the SIS in that regard. In response, he said that the SIS did not take action such as recording complaints.

Responding to a question by Commissioners regarding the relationship between the intelligence agencies had during the war period, he said there was a proper coordination at that time which had not reflected during his tenure as the SIS Director.

(Source: Daily Mirror – By Yoshitha Perera)