Sri Lanka steadily shuts down Islamist terror net while Sinhalese nationalists unleash violence
ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka is making steady progress shutting down an Islamist terror network, police said as organized Sinhalese nationalists unleashed violence on unarmed Muslims which critics warned will pave the way for extremist organizations to attract more members.
Police had now found seven training centres and camps used by the terror network, whose members are believed to belong to at least three splintered organizations.
"The criminal investigations department has discovered seven places which were used as training camps or centres to conduct training sessions," Police Spokesman Nuwan Gunasekera said.
"They are in Vanthavilluwa, Hambantota, Nuwara Eliya, Nuwara Aruppla, Malwana, Kaththankudy and Valachchenai."
Easter Sunday bombings were suspected to be carried out members of National Thowheed Jama’ath (NTJ) Jama’athe Milla’athe Ibrahim (JMI) and Willayath As Seylani which have been banned under emergency regulations.
Police have also uncovered 17 safe houses linked to the groups.
They were in Katuwapitiya – Negombo, Sarikkamulla – Panadura, St. Anthony’s Road – Colombo – 03, Templers’ Road – Mount Lavinia, Vanathavilluwa, Enderamulla – Wattala, Mayula Place – Colombo 06, Saindamarudu, Malwana, Kalagedihena – Thihariya, Kochchikade – Daluwakotuwa, Valachchenai – Ridiyatenne, Subathipura – Kuliyapitiya, Hettipola – Katupotha, Ninthavur and Samanthurai.
"The investigations into April 21 bombings are progressing very successfully under the director of the Senior Deputy Inspector General in charge of the Criminal Investigations Department and Terrorist Investigations Division," Gunasekera said.
He said most those directly involved in the attacks had now been arrested. Police were now searching for others who provided support in different ways.
He said military chief Mahesh Senanayake had provided ‘unlimited support’.
He said 65 suspects including eight women were in the custody of the CID. The TID had another 20 suspects including 2 women.
Abdul Cader Fathima, who found injured in a blast in Saindamarudu, the wife of bomber Mohommed Zaharan was in CID custody.
She was being given medical treatment and her daughter was with her.
The suicide bombers were extremists with links to Islamic State, an organization which is pursuing a Pan-Nationalist organization based in Syria and Iraq.
They bombed three churches and hotels in Sri Lanka killing over 250 people on Easter Sunday.
Police had also arrested 78 Sinhalese nationalists who attacked and set fire to a large number of mosques and set fire to hundreds of Muslim owned shops, houses and factories and killed at least one person.
Police are identifying more nationalists who had damaged property.
"We are going through video footage (CCTV)," Gunasekera said. "We are making investigations to arrest them."
He said there were government servants and employees of private companies were involved in violence.
Their workplaces will be informed to take necessary disciplinary action, he said.
Gunasekera said resources of the security forces which were used to track down Easter Sunday bombings and other crimes had to be diverted to contain violence.
"We had to use over 5,500 policemen to contain the violence in the Wayamba Province alone," he said.
Sri Lanka’s police chief had earlier said that the nationalists were harming the fight against Islamist terror network, indirectly referring to the support received from the ordinary Muslim community to catch the extremists.
"A majority of people, have helped us investigate those who carried out bombings, regardless of race or religion," Wickremeratne said.
"But a minority of extremists who had not even helped one iota is now harming property of unarmed innocent citizens.
"We will not allow them to show their force against unarmed citizens and de-stabilize the country."
Sri Lanka’s Speaker Karu Jayasuriya warned that like the 1983 riots against Tamils by Sinhalese nationalists, the current violence would also help Islamist terrorists get more recruits. The 1983 riots had been likened to Kristallnacht of the the Nazis by those who had knowledge of history.
Sri Lanka’s nationalists had been stoking anti-Muslim hatred on social media directly and also on national television indirectly in the days after the Easter Sunday bombings.
Shortly before the government blocked social media network, efforts were under way to organize a Nazi_style boycott of Muslim businesses. There had been similar attempts including ‘Brown shirt’ style activism to stop ordinary Sinhalese going into Muslim shops earlier.
"These incidents did not take place in the first horror of terrorist attacks, when people were hurting and grieving," Jayasuriya said.
"Instead the fact that they are taking place three weeks after the attacks makes it evident that there is an organized group seeking to fulfil narrow agendas through this unrest.
"All I have to say to them is this. “You are laying the groundwork for your country to burn for a few more generations. I urge all citizens to bear in mind that these are the futures of your children that you are setting ablaze."
Police also arrested Amith Weerasinghe, a leader of a Sinhalese nationalist organization called Mahason Balakaya who had been linked to anti-Muslim violence in Kandy last year.
Amith Weerasinghe had instigated attacks on Muslims in parts of Kandy last year before Islamic State linked terror attacks began.
Sri Lanka’s intelligence officials had already identified that nationalist violence against the Muslim community were a motivating factor for the terror network though the immediate triggers for Easter Sunday attacks were mostly external.
Islamic State style Pan-Nationalism does not necesserily require an oppressed minority (a real or imagined irredenta) to spread its tentacles thought it may help, political philosophers have said. Pan-Nationalists also target countries which has a majority of co-religionists or co-linguists.