Sri Lanka ‘bombing mastermind’ named as Moulvi Zahran Hashim

Sri Lankan intelligence has named the mastermind behind the Easter Sunday attacks as Moulvi Zahran Hashim, an extremist native cleric who incited his followers to violence with fiery sermons on his social media channels.

The revelation comes after senior authorities officers accused the Nationwide Thowheed Jamath (NTJ) a little-known group selling Islamist terrorist ideology, because the perpetrators of the horrific suicide bombings which have now killed 310 individuals, including eight British citizens.

India’s CNN Information 18 channel first reported the doable involvement of Hashim within the bloodbath, claiming that Indian intelligence sources had indicated to the Sri Lankans that he was planning to assault the Indian Excessive Fee in Colombo in early April.

An preliminary probe into lethal suicide bomb assaults in Sri Lanka that killed greater than 300 individuals reveals it was “retaliation for Christchurch,” the nation’s deputy defence minister mentioned Tuesday.

“The preliminary investigations have revealed that what occurred in Sri Lanka (on Sunday) was in retaliation for the assault in opposition to Muslims in Christchurch,” state minister of defence Ruwan Wijewardene instructed parliament.

Over the past two years, Hashim gained hundreds of followers and attracted the eye of jihad specialists for his incendiary preaching on a pro-Islamic State Sri Lankan Fb account, often called ‘Al-Ghuraba’ media, and on YouTube.

Robert Postings, a author and researcher on the Islamic State, mentioned on his Twitter account that he had first encountered Hashim in late 2017 when the “self-styled” preachers was disseminating pro-Isil propaganda on Fb.

YouTube movies of the Islamist who’s now the face of one of many worst terrorist atrocities since 9/11 reveals him railing in opposition to all non-believers, together with Christians, Hindus and Buddhists, and declaring that solely Muslims are match to rule. The backdrop to his sermons included photographs of the burning Twin Towers.

Three days after the assault, there have been no claims of reponsibility by Islamic State, the NTJ, or some other group for the collection of six devastating bombings throughout three accommodations and three church buildings on Sunday.

There have additionally been conflicting reviews concerning the destiny of Hashim, with claims circulating that he was one of many suicide bombers who carried out the assault and counter-claims that he could also be on the run within the neighbouring Maldives islands.

Though identified primarily as a luxurious honeymoon vacation spot, the Maldives additionally equipped a whole lot of radicalised fighters to Isil’s failed makes an attempt to arrange an Islamic caliphate within the Center East.

Hashim himself was identified among the many Muslim neighborhood as a divisive determine who was mentioned to have dropped out of his seminary in India both due to ideological variations or over cash worries. He’s believed to have clashed with fellow clerics and inspired his followers to assault rival mosques.

Hilmy Ahamed, the vice-president of the Muslim Council of Sri Lanka, instructed The Telegraph he had been attempting to warn officers about Hashim’s extremism for 3 years after it emerged that he was radicalisng younger pupils in his Koran lessons.

“We have been very involved that this man was preaching hate on social media and importing a variety of movies,” he mentioned.

Mr Ahamed mentioned Hashim continued to shuttle between India and Sri Lanka, travelling by fishing boat to keep away from detection.

Hashim’s group started as an offshoot of the Sri Lanka Thawheed Jamaath, which has repeatedly fractured as a consequence of inside disputes.

Individuals attend burial ritual of the victims of a number of terror assaults throughout a funeral ceremony in Negomboo Credit score: Chamila Karunarathne/Anadolu Company/Getty Photographs

The group couldn’t have carried out the assault with out exterior assist, added Mr Ahamed.

One working idea amongst regional safety specialists is that returning fighters may have supplied coaching and logistics to the marginal NTJ which, though a cheerleader of worldwide jihad, had solely been identified beforehand for defacing Buddhist statues in Sri Lanka.

In January, police in Puttalam, some 100 miles north of Colombo, raided a coconut plantation, the place they found 100kg of C4 explosives, 100 detonators, 75kg of ammonium nitrate and potassium chlorate and 6 20 litre cans of nitric acid.  

Experiences on the time didn’t identify the group concerned however mentioned the location could also be linked to a newly rising militant group that was tied to the vandalising of Buddhist statues. Suspects have been arrested however later launched on bail.

Three months later, Sri Lankan safety companies acquired a tip-off from Indian and US intelligence companies that the NTJ could also be getting ready to hold out terrorist acts in opposition to church buildings, however the essential info was not handed to nation’s prime minister.

For the reason that assaults, the Sri Lankan authorities has apologised for failing to behave on the intelligence transient.

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