Fear Of More Attacks
Sri Lanka bans 2 terror groups after blasts
Suspected mastermind spent ‘substantial time in India’
COLOMBO, Apr 28: Sri Lanka's president on Saturday outlawed two terror groups suspected to be behind the suicide bombings on churches and hotels while the wife and child of the suspected ringleader were wounded during a military raid in safe house, his family and police said.
The National Thawheedh Jamaath (NTJ) and Jamathei Millathu Ibrahim were banned under his emergency powers, President Maithripala Sirisena said in a statement, nearly a week after the Easter Sunday attacks that killed more than 250 people.
Authorities could not act earlier to ban the two little known groups because the law required them to show firm evidence against them, officials said.
Police believe the suspected mastermind of the bombings, Mohamed Hashim Mohamed Zahran, led either the NTJ or a splinter group. Less is known about Jamathei Millathu Ibrahim, whose members are also believed to have played a role in the bombings.
Authorities have said there could be more attacks against religious centres. Last Sunday's bombings shattered the relative calm that the Buddhist-majority country has seen since a 26-year civil war with mostly-Hindu ethnic Tamil separatists ended a decade ago.
Meanwhile, Mohammad Zahran Hashim - the suspected mastermind of the Sri Lankan Easter bombings - spent a "substantial amount of time in south India", The Hindu reported on Friday citing a top source within the Sri Lankan military.
"We are looking into the IS angle. We also suspect that some of those radical youth (suspected bombers) were indoctrinated and trained in India, possibly Tamil Nadu," revealed the senior military official, who wished to remain anonymous.
While Indian officials did not state that Hashim had travelled to India, they did point out that he had maintained virtual links with youth believed to be of Indian origin, said The Hindu.
Hashim's ties with south India were also confirmed by Hilmy Ahamed, vice-president of the Muslim Council of Sri Lanka.
"Hashim had shifted base to southern India," he told AFP, adding that "all his videos have been uploaded from India. He uses boats of smugglers to travel back and forth from southern India."
The militant Islamic State group had claimed responsibility for the terror attacks that left more than 250 dead, and also released a picture showing eight suspected bombers. Among them, the only man seen with his face uncovered is believed to be Hashim.
Hashim was identified by investigators as the leader of the National Thowheed Jamaath, the group believed to have executed the highly coordinated series of explosions last Sunday that saw over 250 people killed. However, it later appeared that he may have broken off from the NTJ and founded another extremist outfit that assisted with the attacks.
Meanwhile, more than a hundred of Hashim's Facebook followers are being scrutinised, said an official on condition of anonymity.
The notion that Hashim made use of "doctrinal videos" in order to likely radicalise youth, first emerged when Indian authorities questioned seven individuals of a group whose leader was found to be a follower of Hashim.
"The men were IS sympathisers and arrested in September 2018 in Coimbatore, on suspicion that they were plotting the assassination of certain political and religious leaders in India," The Hindu said, quoting the official.