EASTER SUNDAY BOMB BLAST IN SRI LANKA Part 3
Posted on May 6th, 2019

KAMALIKA PIERIS

Revised 17.5.19

Jihadist radicals in the East and elsewhere were closely monitored for years by Sri Lankan intelligence, said analysts. Yahapalana tried to crush the intelligence sector of the military, by imprisoning its best men. But, in spite of this, the military had obtained prior intelligence relating to these attacks and conveyed the information to higher authorities, said Mahinda Rajapaksa, speaking after the bomb blast. 

The Economist too, noted that the intelligence apparatus was on the trail of jihadist groups including NTJ until around 2016. National Security Council, under Rajapaksa, had  met once a week but meetings  became less and less under Yahapalana, until it became ‘pointless’, said Economist.

Directorate of Military Intelligence   confirms this. Until 2015, a meeting of the Intelligence Coordinating Committee took place every Tuesday at the Ministry of Defence. There was the National Security Council (NSC) discussion on Wednesday, too. After 2016, the NSC meeting dropped to once a fortnight, sometimes once in three weeks. And the focus continued to be on the LTTE, not other dangers. Directorate of Military Intelligence had   suggested that they should be allowed to infiltrate certain organizations and the state should introduce laws to reel them. Once Yahapalana   government came in none of them were interested, said the military. This is ‘national mindset’ versus ‘liberal mindset” said critics.

But the military seems to have quietly continued its surveillance functions, because when the bomb blasts occurred they were ready with the necessary information.  In 2015, the Directorate of Military Intelligence had set up a separate ‘ISIS Cell’ to monitor activities of those working for ISIS in Sri Lanka .This was done after they noted an increase in the Facebook posts. 

This yielded results and Military Intelligence was able to identify the network of the pro ISIS terror groups, their leaders and areas of operations. They were able to immediately name the two organizations responsible, National Thawheed Jamath (NTJ) and Jammiyathul Millathu Ibrahim (JMI).

The Directorate of Military Intelligence    ‘possessed ‘a detailed list of local operatives   and within hours of the bombing, the military and police swooped down on at least 24 suspects, suggesting that they knew exactly where the group had been operating. They were quickly able to locate their safe houses.

A veritable arsenal of weapons is being recovered by police commandos and intelligence who obviously know exactly where to go and what ‘safe houses’ to pinpoint, said Kishali Pinto Jayawardene.

What surprised and angered many people was the lightning speed with which police and security forces began arresting suspects, and arresting them in stunningly large numbers. Obviously, police had information on these suspects and when a warning was given about impending attacks targeting churches and hotels, it should have been obvious to anyone to connect the two dots said Rajan  Philips.

Within 24 hours of the blast, detonators and explosives emerged from houses, ditches, bus stands. A large stock of explosives and detonators were found in a house near Nochchiyagama filling station.    87 low explosive detonators abandoned at the private bus stand in Bastian Mawatha, Colombo.

There was deep anger as well as grief, over the bomb blasts and the grinning indifferent Yahapalana government had no alternative but to declare a state of emergency and ask the security forces to go into action. Sri Lanka military is a well trained      and very experienced force.  It has successfully crushed two JVP insurgencies in 1971 and   1989 and defeated the LTTE in 2009. They knew exactly how to flush out the operatives in this Jihad operation,

The response of the armed forces to the bomb blast was most impressive.  Once a state of emergency was declared, the military ‘poured troops onto the streets’ to back up the police as they searched for suspects. Cordon and search operations were set up all over the country. Roadblocks, vehicle checks, raids on suspicious spots, screening of certain locations, were done. A combined raid was carried out by Police, Navy and the Air Force at Mandulkuda, Kalpitiya.A combined Police, STF and Army search operation in Kalmunai. By 2.5.2019 they had arrested 120 persons. 

The public gave many tip offs to the military. Police Commandos had detected 12 kilos of high explosives and electronic devices from a forest area in Shanthipuram, Mannar, following information provided by a resident of the area.

Panadura South Police following information received searched a ‘safe house’, in Panadura, belonging to the Sri Lanka Hashimi Foundation of Muslim Refugees run by Pakistani and Afghan Nationals. Prayers were conducted there in the night. Residents in the area also handed over a petition against the suspicious conduct of prayers in the building, to the Panadura Urban Council.

The suicide bomber group had money.   CID found over Rs. 140 million in cash, and other assets worth over Rs. 7 billion belonging to the Easter Sunday bombers. There were 41 bank accounts. Helpers in the bomb blasts were each paid Rs 2 million.

The suicide bombers   had rented seven houses in several areas including Mahawila, Kochchikade, Badalgama and Lucky Plaza in Kollupitiya. They had also rented seven vehicles for their use.

17 safe houses were found. They were at Katuwapitiya-Negombo, Sarikkamulla-Panadura, Wanathawilluwa, Enderamulla-Wattala, Saindamarudu nine, Malwana, Kalagedihena-Thihariya, Daluwakotuwa-Kochchikade, Walachchna-Ridiyatenna, Subarathipura-Kuliyapitiya, Hettipola, Katupotha, Nindavur, Samanthurai and at St. Anthony’s Road-Colombo 3, Mayura Place-Colombo 06. 

The police also found seven training centers at Wanathawilluwa, Hambantota, Nuwara Eliya, Aruppola, Malwana, Kattankudy and Walachchenai. The Kattankudy centre was disguised as a farm. It was 15 acres in extent and had a firing range. The training centre maintained by the National Tawheed Jamath (NTJ) at Black Pool, Nuwara Eliya  had trained 38 persons. Zaharan Hashim too had trained there. The last rehearsal of the Easter Sunday bombings was held at Black Pool, on April 17. It was supervised by Zaharan. 

The Blackpool raid yielded a bonus. Police found details pertaining to the local members of the ISIS terrorist network in a laptop found at Blackpool .The intelligence services confirmed that the information saved in the laptop were original.

The security forces looked at those with links to ISIS. CID questioned the parents of a powerful local ISIS member, who is in Syria. They said that they visited their son in Syria and stayed there for about one and a half years. He is living there with his family and spending a luxury life, they said.

Welikada Police arrested a Councilor of the Kotte Sri Jayewardenepura Municipal Council and his brother for distributing materials in support of the ISIS terrorist organization. Swords and manna knives were also seized during the arrest. ( Daily News 8.5.19 p 4) the Assistant Director of the Langama Pasala Hodama Pasala project of the Ministry of Education was arrested for allegedly encouraging Islamic extremism and the Islamic State. 

A Moulavi has been arrested in the Nawala area with CD’s containing extremist preaching and pictures of the Kochchikade church. He had been chased away by Muslims two months back after he conducted extremist preaching at a mosque in the Nawala area. After the incident he is said to have rented a house in the Nawala area and had extremist preachings recorded in CDs to be distributed among Muslims.

The security forces arrested a youth in Ethalawatunuwewa, Kahatagasdigiliya on a tip-off. He had arrived in the area a few days ago. The police found books containing distorted Buddhist and Catholic literature in his car.

797 Compact Disks (CDs) containing recorded religious sermons and scenes inciting violence were found in the houses of the President and Treasurer of a mosque in Moragoda, Galle. One compact disc had the title apita ayath ratak’.

On the 7th May, the chief Operating officer at Pelawatte Sugar Company, Shiras Abdeen had held a two hour private discussion with 13 Muslim employees. Others had been chased away. The employees got worked up, the police were called in, and Shiraz was   put into a van and taken away amidst the hoots of the huge number assembled there. (Derana news 7.5.19 )

An ‘in-service advisor’ at the Bibile Zonal Education Office had been arrested for allegedly having links to the National Thawheed Jamath, and released on bail. When he reported to work  all officers walked out. The Education Ministry of the Uva Provincial Council suspended him till the investigations are completed. The  officers resumed work.

This movement has established itself island wide. The widespread nature of the movement emerged with the searches. Cells, training centers, hideaways , weapons and  other  items of significance were found in  Akurana, Alutgama, Anuradhapura  Badulla, Balapitiya, Bandaragama, Bandarawela ,Beruwela, Bibile, Bulathkohupitiya, Colombo (   Battaramulla ,Dehiwela, Dematagoda, Slave island, Wellawatte) Daulagala,  Dickwella, Dummalasuriya, Enderamulla, Ettampitiya, Erakkandi,  Eravur, Galkiriyagama, Galle,  Gampola,  Hambantota , Hakmana, Horowpotana, Jaela, Kadawata, Kaduwela, Kahatagasdiliya, Kalutara,  Kalmunai, Kalpitiya.  Kantalai, Katugastota,  Kebethigollewa,  Kegalle, Kekirawa, Kurunegala, Kinniya, Kiriella, Koswatta, Kotiyakumbura, Kuliyapitiya,  Mabola, Madampe, Mandalkuda, Mannar, Marawila, Maskeliya, Matale,  Matara, ,Mawanella, Medirigiriya. Moneragala, Moragollagama,  Moratuwa, Mundalama, Nacchaduwa,  Nawalapitiya, Negombo, Nikaveratiya, Nintavur,   Nittambuwa, Panama, Panduwasnuwara pasyala Peradeniya,  Poddala, Pothuvil, Pulmoddai, Puttalam, Raddolugama,  Ragama,  Ratgama, Ratmalana, Samanthurai, Serunuwara, Tangalle. Telwatte, Tihariya, Trincomalee, Udunuwara, Ukuwela, Vavuniya, Veyangoda, Weligama, Welikanda, Welimada, Welipenna, Welisara,    Wellawaya  and Yatiyantota. 

Security searches revealed large stocks of detonators,  explosives,   gelignite ,  switches , water gel,  petrol bombs, safety fuses (each about 12.5ft in length) grenades and weapons such as axes, daggers, guns,  swords, knives, pistols and  ammunition. suicide vests, walkie –talkies,  hi-tech equipment , army uniforms, camouflage uniforms.     Weapons were found in Hamilton canal Negombo and the Kelaniya river. Weapons were also found hidden inside almirahs, in wells  and on the top of roofs.

CDs and DVDs containing  extremist propaganda  emerged in the searches. The military also found video recordings of the Easter Sunday bombings, photographs of Zaharan Hashim and photos and videos of the Wanathavilluwa training camp. Bogus degree certificates,  bogus IDs, bogus passports,  savings books of Bank of Ceylon were also found. 15 identity cards belonging to Muslims wrapped in a plastic bag and placed on a plate, were found in an abandoned house in Salambakulam. The bag also held NICs, driving licences and office identity cards of  Muslims.

The military found many detonators and explosives island wide in their searches. It is believed that large stocks of explosives were smuggled to Sri Lanka through the Mannar coast. several influential persons In the Mannar area have helped in this exercise,  talking to the Police when arrests or inquiries are made.   At Pulmoddai they found 89 detonators, water gel etc hidden in a house.

Here is  an account of one large  haul. Acting on a tip-off, the Kuda Oya police,  raided a farm, where a large consignment of arms and ammunition and including sniper guns had been buried, and arrested the owner of the owner of the property, Jezley Abdul Cassim, a businessman, living in the US, holding dual citizenship. He was arrested at his Dehiwala residence, where the police recovered another stock of arms and ammunition.

Among the items taken into custody in Kuda Oya were four sniper guns, a galkatas (locally manufactured firearm) two repeater gun, three 12 bore guns, two M 77 weapons, three telescopes used for guns, a communication set, a pen drive, SIM cards, a book containing details about sophisticated firearms. The police also recovered 342 rounds of T-56 ammunition, 163 cartridges used for 12 bore guns, 430 cartridges (long) used for two bore guns, 21 cartridges of No. 16 used for 12 bore guns, 110 M 16 cartridges, 75 cartridges used for 9 mm pistols, 169 cartridges used for 7 mm pistols, five smoke bombs, a handcuff, 14 kris knives and razor blades, two machetes, four boxes containing cartridges used for air rifles and 2,773 REM cartridges.

 Two children who went to the farm in search of bamboo spotted some suspicious boxes lying there and alerted their parents. The elders who rushed to the farm promptly informed the police after seeing the arms and ammunition in the boxes. ( (Island 14.5.19)

We know what they are getting ready for, said Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith. Security forces have found swords and daggers in mosques. They are preparing for a Jihad attack. Jihad is a holy war waged on behalf of Islam as a religious duty. Their enemy is the Christians, Buddhists and Hindus. 

All over the country, swords were found, in huge quantities, brand new, stacked together and waiting. The number of knives and swords seized  stood at 13,000 in May, 2019, reported the media. 300  unused, Chinese made swords were found at Slave island, Colombo.   56 swords unused and still  in  their sheaths were found in a well in Maligawatte, Colombo. Swords were found hidden in the sugar cane plantation in Pelawatte. Five swords  had been buried on a coconut estate at Alakandupitiya, Darga Nagar. 50 swords had been distributed in Beruwala. Swords were  found in several houses in Ratgama. 300 large knives used for cutting sugarcane had gone missing from the Hingurana Sugar factory stores. Dummalasuriya Arabic College had a logo of two crossed swords. The coconut trees in the compound had been used for knife practice.  The school boys were being trained to kill.

Swords were found in many mosques, such as Maskeliya Jumma mosque, The swords  were of various lengths, clearly to suit different heights of persons. A stock of 46 swords was found hidden under the bed of the Moulavi of Kadil Jumma Mosque near the Defence College, in Slave Island, 46 swords, and  a small gun which was loaded, were found in a well in close proximity to a mosque near the Khettarama grounds in Maligawatte.. 20 camouflage military uniforms were recovered from a mosque, near Temple Trees. A suicide west was also found in Kadil Jumma Mosque near the Defence College, in Slave Island.

Saharan’s wife and Katuwapitiya church bomber Hasthun’s wife had bought nine sets of white clothing, nine blouses, skirts and under garments.  They will be needed in the future, they had said. Fabrics similar to saffron robes worn by Buddhist monks were also found. Clearly they were planning to bomb Buddhist temples.  That would have been part of the jihad.

But this movement was not confining itself to sporadic jihads. This movement was clearly  planning something much bigger than  jihad. This movement was preparing for  a full blown war. The Muslims were getting ready to take over the whole country. This is shown in the military preparations.

A communication signal jammer so powerful that they could disrupt walkie talkie communications was found in Negombo . At Vavuniya, they found a digital tape which can be used to launch a laser attack. At Epitamulla, Mirihana  they found a rocket propelled grenade.  at Mannar they found an unregistered drone.  In Navanthurei in Jaffna an underground bunker had been constructed with funds from a Muslim  organization .The owner had been told to construct prison cells in the bunker. Two men who were taking video footage of a security post in Hijragama along the Horowpathana road were arrested. 

The movement  also possessed large collections of military uniforms. Army uniform, camouflage uniforms,    the uniforms of  Air force, STF and police  were found in the searches. 456 army uniforms were found in one cache. Over 1,000 uniforms worn by security forces personnel  (STF), were found in Thalapitiya, Galle.  ( continued)

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