ECONOMYNEXT – The United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has confirmed that Maulavi (Islamic preacher) Mohamad Ibrahim Mohamad Naufer masterminded Sri Lanka’s 2019 Easter Sunday bombings, Minister of Public Security Sarath Weerasekara told parliament today (19).
The minister was responding to a May 18 statement by Attorney General Dappula De Livera that there was a grand conspiracy behind the attacks that killed 269 people and injured over 500.
De Livera in a letter written to the Inspector General of Police (IGP) C D Wickramaratne and a subsequent statement to the public said that he has been unable to press charges or file indictments against the conspirators and abettors of the Easter Sunday attack due to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) investigations being incomplete.
Related: Sri Lanka Attorney General claims “grand conspiracy” behind Easter attack: report
Minister Weerasekara said in parliament today that the investigation into the Easter Sunday attacks was an international investigation as many foreign nationals lost their lives in the attack. The CID conducted investigations along with international investigative teams such as the FBI and the Australian Federal Police.
It takes a long time complete international investigations, the minister said defending the delay.
Usually, it takes a long time to complete international investigations,” he said.
“Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who was considered the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks is still in detention. It took years to file a lawsuit against the terrorist who assassinated former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. It took three years to file charges against the assassins of former Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar,” he said.
Similarly, said Weerasekara, it takes years to file charges in the case of an attack such as the Easter bombings as investigations must be thorough in order to gather all evidence so that suspects cannot escape through a loophole in the law.
The minister said AG has already filed indictments against 16 suspects in the Kegalle High Court for damaging a Buddha Statue in Mawanella and six suspects in the Puttalam High Court for storing explosives in Wanathawilluwa. Three more were indicted in the Kegalle High Court for the attempted murder of Mohammad Taslim, a key witness whose body is partially paralised as a result of a gunshot to the head. Police believe Taslim was shot on the orders of Zaharan Hashim, the ringleader of the suicide bombers that blew themselves up on April 21 2019.
Mohammed Naufer Mohammed Yusri and Hejaaz Hizbullah and another were indicted for aiding and abetting terrorist activities in Gampaha and Puttalam High Courts.
Weerasekara said in November 2020, eight documents with charges were presented to the AG regarding the eight attacks that happen on Easter Sunday 2019.
“After that, I met the Attorney General personally on a few occasions. I understood that he was working on this with great dedication and enthusiasm. He said to wait till the report of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCOl) is released to see whether there is a contradiction between the evidence and what the report revealed,” Weerasekara said.
The PCol that probed the attack presented its findings to the AG in February this year. According ot the minister, from March 12 to April 24, a team of 54 police investigators together with state counsels from the Attorney General’s Department worked in a team led by a Senior Assistant Solicitor General to thoroughly analyse the evidence and facts under the personal supervision of the AG.
Shortcomings in the investigation was reported to the police on April 24. The AG had then resubmitted the report to the IGP on May 12, by which time police had addressed most of the shortcomings and reported back to the AG’s Department, said Weerasekara.
Weerasekara said this could be the reason for the AG’s statement on May 15.
“We hope to attend to the rest of the shortcomings in the near future, after which the Attorney General can file indictments against suspects,” he added.
Authorities have apprehended 704 individuals suspected of being connected to the bombings, according to Weerasekara.
“We appreciate the assistance and the professional commitment the AG has demonstrated in this regard,” he said. (Colombo/May19/2021)