At least ten days before attacks, a Middle East based intelligence agency gave security officials a detailed warning of a possible threat to churches by the National Thowheeth Jama’ath. Similar alerts were also echoed by a Western intelligence agency. But the matter was not conveyed even to Prime Minister Ranil Wickremersinghe. Now authorities are investigating the reason behind such dubious behavior of Sri Lankan intelligence agencies.
Trashing the allegation of failure, sources inside Sri Lankan intelligence agencies claimed, on the basis of the security alert of the Middle East based intelligence source, they already have brought the matter to the attention of country’s Prime Minister. But it was Sri Lankan politicians who had on purpose ignored the matter thus leading to the series of jihadist attacks on churches and high-end hotels.
Meanwhile, Sri Lankan law enforcing agencies, on Friday, April 26 raided the location where they believe militants recorded a video pledge to Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi before carrying out deadly Easter Sunday attacks.
The discovery in the town of Sammanthurai, around 210 km (130 miles) east of the capital Colombo, came as security forces continued to search for extremists responsible for the bombings.
Seven people were reportedly arrested in the raid that was conducted by police and army personnel.
Police found an ISIS flag which they said was used as a backdrop, as well as clothing similar to that worn by the eight people in the video recorded before they launched suicide bomb attacks against three luxury hotels and three churches within 20 minutes of each other on Sunday. Two blasts at a guesthouse and a house in came later in the day.
ISIS released the video via its Amaq propaganda agency two days after the attacks.
Sammanthurai is around 40 km south of Batticaloa, where at least 25 people were killed in a suicide bombing at the Zion church.
Police showed the clothing and the flag on national television along with around 150 sticks of gelignite, 100,000 ball bearings, and a quadcopter drone. Video appeared to show a stack of 50 kg fertiliser sacks, around a dozen large drums of liquid and a box of battery power units among other items seized.
On Monday, police said they had found 87 detonators – 12 of them scattered on the ground at the Bastian Mawatha Private bus stand in Colombo and another 75 in a nearby garbage dump.
Meanwhile, there were reports of explosions on Friday in Kalmunai, around 5 km from Sammanthurai.
Troops and a small group of militants exchanged fire for over an hour, military spokesperson Brigadier Sumith Atapattu said, adding that there were no fatalities among troops, but the area was still not cleared.
Two gunmen were reportedly killed in the shootout, while one civilian died and three were injured.
And in Colombo, Navy personnel arrested three people and recovered one kilo of C-4 explosives near Wellawetta railway station.
Is Sirisena cashing the jihadist attacks?
With the country on the defensive over ignored foreign warnings that attacks were likely, police chief Pujith Jayasundara on Friday became the second major resignation, after Sri Lanka’s top defence ministry official Hemasiri Fernando stepped down late Thursday.
Sirisena had called on both to leave their posts because of the recriminations over the government’s failure to prevent the attacks despite the warnings from India that NTJ suicide bombers were likely to hit “prominent churches.”
Late on Friday, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe apologized.
“We take collective responsibility and apologize to our fellow citizens for our failure to protect victims of these tragic events,” Wickremesinghe tweeted.
The military poured troops onto the streets to bolster police in the search for suspects using newly granted powers under a state of emergency.
At least 74 people are in custody, including a man believed to be millionaire spice-trader Mohammed Yusuf Ibrahim, the father of two of the bombers.
“We now have info that there are about 140 people in Sri Lanka linked to the Islamic State, we can and we will eradicate all of them very soon,” Sirisena said, announcing that there would also be new legislation to ban extremist groups.
On Thursday, authorities reduced the death toll from 360 dead to 253, saying that badly mutilated bodies had been double counted.
Critics of President Maithripala Sirisena are saying, the controversial President is trying to cash the jihadist attacks in ousting few of his foes within the Defence Ministry, security agencies and police.
ISIS funder Md. Shahid Uddin Khan plotting more attacks:
As part of ISIS agenda of spreading its network within South Asian nations and nefarious agenda of establishing Caliphate, sitting in Britain, Md. Shahid Uddin Khan is reportedly plotting a number of jihadist attacks in India, Nepal and Bangladesh. In Bangladesh, this ISIS funder is looking for July 2017 Holey Artisan Bakery proto-type attacks on Dhaka’s upscale hotels, restaurants or bars, which attract foreigners. Being instructed by Md. Shahid Uddin Khan, his cohort M. Sajjad Hussain has been coordinating such attacks. Sajjad currently lives in the United States along with his wife and son.
Who is Shahid Uddin Khan?
Md. Shahid Uddin Khan (Army No: BA002428, Course: 8-BMA, Commission Date: 10-06-1983), who along with his wife Farjana Anjum and daughters had smuggled out millions of dollars from Bangladesh and invested in various business ventures in United Arab Emirates and United Kingdom.
In 2009, he invested two million pounds in the United Kingdom in exchange of obtaining immigrant status under Visa Tier 1, vide VAF No. 511702. Later the family had laundered an unknown amount of money and brought that into the United Kingdom. Britain never investigated this specific case of money laundering.
Commenting on the latest ISIS threat about jihadist attack in Bangladesh or West Bengal, intelligence sources say, in the past it has also been seen that whenever ISIS or Al Qaeda issued such threats, there always had been jihadist attacks. Considering such past records, Bangladesh and India should take the threat very seriously. Moreover, taking the jihadist attack at Holey Artisan Bakery in 2017 in Dhaka during the month of Ramadan, most possibly jihadists may try to launch attacks during this month. They may target crowded places or places visited by foreigners.
Why Theresa May is reluctant in deporting the ISIS funder family?
It is a matter of great surprise as the British Prime Minister Theresa May and her administration are reluctant in taking any action against Md. Shahid Uddin Khan, his wife Farjana Anjum and this couple’s daughters. Even the National Crime Agency (NCA) or the British intelligence such as MI5 and MI5 had not initiated any investigation into the case of Md. Shahid Uddin Khan.
Renuka Patnaik is a researcher with an organization that monitors activities of militancy groups in the world.