Easter Sunday attacks–the truth yet to unfold

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Nearly two and a half years after the Easter Sunday terrorist attacks, the country is no closer to unravelling the truth. Although there was a security failure, not an intelligence failure, and synchronised attacks that left innocent civilians at several churches and hotels dead and injured could not be prevented, the law enforcement agencies quickly moved into action soon after the attacks and dismantled the terrorist network within two weeks.

The investigations seem to have moved at a snail’s pace thereafter, with few arrests being made. Occasionally reports appear in the media stating that an individual was arrested in connection with the attacks. However no significant individual involved in planning or carrying out the attacks has been taken in to custody in the recent past.

There are also several gaps in the investigations which give rise to more questions than answers. Despite Sarah Pulasthi (one of the suicide bomber’s wife) escaping to India, no attempt has been made to get her down. Sarah’s testimony is vital to the case as she was a friend of Zahran’s wife and would have been privy to a great deal of inside information that would have been invaluable to the investigation. Also since intelligence regarding the attacks had been received from Indian sources, Sara’s connection, if any, with Indian intelligence should have been probed.

Investigations have yet to unravel the mysterious appearance and role played by one Namal Kumara, who described himself as the secretary of the Anti Corruption Front. He appeared from nowhere and made allegations against Nalaka Silva, the Head of the Terrorist Investigation Division, stating that the Police official was plotting to assassinate then President Maithripala Sirisena and  Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

Namal Kumara was given considerable publicity over the media and eventually Nalaka Silva was arrested. After the Easter Sunday attacks, Namal Kumara disappeared from the public eye except when he suddenly emerged during the post-Easter Sunday attacks against the Muslims in Kurunegala.

Later it was revealed that Namal Kumara was a Police informant. Despite the seriousness of the allegations made by Namal Kumara against Nalaka Silva, to date no action has been taken against either Namal Kumara or  Nalaka Silva.

Namal Kumara’s antics gain added significance with the information that Nalaka Silva had been hot on the heels of Zahran who had several warrants against him. The arrest of Nalaka Silva prevented the warrants against Zahran being executed leaving him free to pursue his evil actions.

The question that has to be explored is whether Namal Kumara’s allegations were a red herring to divert the attention of the Police away from Zahran.

The question uppermost in the mind of most people is who the mastermind behind the attacks was. The Public Security Minister Sarath Weerasekera is of the view that Naufer Moulavi was the mastermind although there is no evidence to support this claim.

The Minister told Parliament on May 19 that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) of the United States confirmed that Mohamed Naufer aka Naufer Moulavi was the mastermind of the Easter Sunday bombings in Sri Lanka.

“It is clear that the mastermind of this is Naufer Moulavi, according to our investigations and American investigations. It was also confirmed by Zaharan’s wife. The FBI has also confirmed Naufer played the main role in this attack,” said the Minister.

When an inquiry on this matter was made by the media from the US Embassy in Colombo whether the FBI has confirmed that the mastermind behind the Easter attacks is Naufer Moulavi, the Embassy responded as follows:

“Following the Easter Sunday attacks, the Government of Sri Lanka asked for our support, and the FBI responded quickly, partnering effectively with Sri Lankan counterparts to investigate the tragic terrorist attacks.”

“On the January 8, the US Justice Department issued a release regarding the April 21 attacks and the arrest of three Sri Lankans, for conspiring to provide material support to ISIS.”

“Today, we charge these defendants with bearing their share of the responsibility for these deaths. According to these charges, the defendants were committed supporters of ISIS, recruited others to ISIS’s violent cause, purchased materials for and made IEDs, helped to prepare and trained others who participated in the attacks, and murdered in the name of this deadly foreign terrorist organisation,” the Embassy release read.

“The three defendants named in the criminal complaint, all of whom pledged allegiance to ISIS, are:

1.   Mohamed Naufer, the “second emir” for the group of ISIS supporters that called itself “ISIS in Sri Lanka,” who allegedly led the group’s propaganda efforts, recruited others to join ISIS, and led a series of multi-day military-type training.

2.   Mohamed Anwar Mohamed Riskan, who allegedly helped manufacture the IEDs used in the Easter attacks.

3.   Ahamed Milhan Hayathu Moha med, who allegedly executed a Police officer to obtain the officer’s firearm, shot a suspected informant and scouted a location for a separate terrorist attack.”

The report issued by the US Department of Justice in January of this year has not explicitly identified Mohamed Naufer aka Naufer Moulavi as the mastermind of these attacks.

Apart from the report issued by the US Department of Justice not explicitly identifying Naufer Moulavi as the mastermind of the attacks, some of the statements in the report are at variance with what has been uncovered by the investigations in Sri Lanka.

The report’s reference to a group called “ISIS in Sri Lanka” is without basis as the Sri Lankan investigators have never discovered any such group in existence in the country. The only group associated with the attack according to Sri Lankan investigators is the National Thowheed Jamath (NTJ).

In the meantime, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith and his flock anxiously await the truth to unfold. So do the Muslims who wish to know who was behind such a heinous crime and why it was committed.

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