Sri Lanka has received the green light from Interpol to have access to the Interpol Foreign Terrorist Fighters (FTFs) list and that from now on, local terror suspects would be included in the list as well.
Addressing a media briefing in Colombo, yesterday (27 Aug), Interpol Secretary General Jürgen Stock said, “Our discussions have been extremely useful as we look toward continued strong cooperation in the future.”
Immediately after the Easter Sunday bombings, Sri Lanka requested Interpol’s assistance, and an Incidence Response Team (IRT) was deployed. It was the first international team on the ground when they arrived on 23 April.
“The team included expertise in areas such as counter-terrorism, explosives, analysis, and disaster victim identification. From the moment the IRT arrived, the support received from the Sri Lankan authorities was excellent, the IRT working on the ground with investigators also meant that any international requests for information in relation to the investigation could be made instantaneously, as well as checks against Interpol’s global databases,” he said.
Further, he said that the cooperation beyond the IRT’s deployment resulted in the arrest of one of the alleged ring leaders, Ahmed Milan Ayatul Mohammed, in the Middle East, following the publication of an Interpol red notice.
The Interpol Secretary-General said that the threat of terrorism is global and that law-enforcement cannot focus on any one ideology. With any form of extremism, the fundamentals are the same, he added.
He also added “Attacks are often carried out in a similar fashion: soft targets and high-powered weapons, they are common elements, the individuals are highly radicalised and they gain access to weapons including explosives. They are mobile and have access to resources whether online or through direct contacts,”
“There has been a crime, there is a crime scene, and law enforcement needs to track each of the threats. This is where Interpol can play an important role in supporting its 194 member countries,” Stock added.
He also said that the Interpol network provides a global tripwire, particularly through the use of Interpol’s global databases, which contain almost 100 million records—including details of more than 50,000 foreign terrorist fighters.
The Interpol team has been operating in several areas and supporting the local investigators in gathering evidence, and also the identification of the remains found at the crime scene.
Also speaking to the media, Director of the Interpol Office in Sri Lanka, SP Ranjith Wedasinghe said there were explosives experts and disaster victim identification experts in the Interpol team and in a disaster where there are bodies which are beyond recognition, there were certain techniques which were used to identify the bodies.
“In addition, a digital forensic analyst was also included in the Interpol team, as well as a counter-terrorism expert,” he added.
Prior to the Easter Sunday attacks, Sri Lanka was not connected to the FTFs list.
Interpol Secretary-General Stock is currently in Sri Lanka and he met with President Maithripala Sirisena, yesterday. He also met with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and the Acting IGP.
Right after the Easter Sunday attacks, a five-member Interpol team arrived in the country to assist the Sri Lankan authorities with the investigations.