Ten days before devastating bombings on Easter Sunday, a top Sri Lankan police official warned the security services in an advisory that a little-known radical Islamist group was planning suicide attacks against churches. Top government officials say the warning never reached them, and no action was taken against the group.
On Monday, the government blamed the group, National Thowheeth Jama’ath, for the attacks, saying it received help from unspecified international terrorist organizations.
Here is a translation of the cover letter and summary of the advisory. In several cases, The Times has redacted an address or phone number from the translation.
April 11, 2019
From DIG Special Security Range
Sent to: Ministerial Security Division
Diplomatic Security Division
Judicial Security Division
Security Divisions of Retired Presidents
“INFORMATION OF AN ALLEGED PLAN ATTACK”
1. This refers to the letter from the Ministry of Defense to the Inspector General of Police and further refers to the memo dated 2019.04.09 by the IGP with reference number STAFF05/IGP/PS/OUT/2860/19.
2. You are hereby instructed to pay particular attention to the reference made in Page 2-4 of the above under title National Thawhith Jamaan concerning a possible suicide attack being planned in this country by Mohammed Zaharan, leader of the National “Thawhith Jamaan.”
3. You should instruct all personnel to pay strict heed to this report and be extra vigilant and cautious of the top officials and residences coming under your purview.
Deputy Inspector General of Police
Special Protection Range,
Foreign intelligence has informed that Mohammed Cassim Mohamed Zaharan alias Zaharan Hashmi the leader of the National Thowheeth Jama’ath and his followers are planning suicide attacks in this country. The reports noted that these attacks could target Catholic churches and the Indian High Commission in Colombo. (Information received is at Appendix A)
Information has been received that persons known as Zaharan Hashmi and Shahid are currently in hiding in Oluvil in the Akkaraipattu region after the incidents of damaging religious statues in Mawanella in December 26, 2018.
A person known as Rilwan has been identified as a younger brother of Zaharan, and the main recruiter of followers around Zaharan – by the name of Mohamed Cassim Mohammed Rilwan NIC No. 903432624V residing at [address redacted], of the Kattankudy Police Division
It has been found that this individual is currently in hiding after a clash between NTJ and another religious organization in Kattankudy on March 10, 2018. Even while in hiding he has been working to build followers for Zaharan in Akkaraipattu, Kuliyapitiya, Puttalam, Mawanella and Thihariya and is currently residing in the home of one his close associates in the Oluvil Region.
A person known as Milhan, maintains a social media account under the name Mohammed Milhan and interacts with the social media accounts of Zaharan. It has been observed that he has been regularly updating accounts with hate speech again non-Muslims since the March 15, 2019, attacks on a Muslim mosque by a Christian individual in New Zealand.
Mohammed Milhan, who studied at Kalmunai Zahira College, uses [phone number redacted], and as an ardent follower of Zaharan, has been observed as someone who has deep hatred towards nonbelievers.
Even though Zaharan has not specifically called on his recruits to directly attack Catholic churches or the Indian High Commission, he has, since 2016, preached to his followers that the murder of nonbelievers is a most noble religious endeavor and that Islam should be spread through such acts.