National Thowheeth Jamath(NTJ): Police probe Sri Lanka local terror group's international link

WION Web Team
Colombo, Sri Lanka Published: Apr 22, 2019, 09:01 PM(IST)

Sri Lanka terror attacks Photograph:( Reuters )

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There have also been murmurs of intelligence failure after Sri Lanka's police chief issued a warning on April 11.

The multiple bomb attacks carried out in Sri Lanka on Sunday was the hallmark of National Thowheeth Jamath(NTJ), cabinet minister Rajitha Senaratne said on Monday.

The terror group which was earlier linked to vandalising Buddhist statutes has suddenly come under the scanner for its reported role in the blasts which took place in churches and luxury hotels across the emerald island.

However, authorities are trying to find out an outside hand in the deadly blasts which have killed over 290 people so far.

"We don't see that only a small organisation in this country can do all that," Senaratne said.

The Sri Lankan presidency said in a statement that "intelligence sections have reported that there are international terror groups which are behind local terrorists."

Lankan officials have been surprised with the planning and execution of the blasts and suspect other forces might be at play.

The Soufan Center, a New York based group that monitors global security threats, said the Sri Lanka bombings bore all the "hallmarks" of "attacks by other Salafi-jihadist groups, particularly those where local groups receive foreign support."

It highlighted the Christmas Eve bombings in Indonesia in 2000, where al-Qaeda worked with local group Jemmah Islamiyah, and the 2005 hotel bombings in Amman masterminded by an Al-Qaeda affiliate.

"These attacks are designed to increase sectarian tensions and destabilise the governments of the countries where they take place," said a Soufan Center study.

A report released by the group in January said Al Qaeda and Islamic State wanted to recruit followers in South Asia and their propaganda "highlighted injustices against Muslims in Bangladesh, Myanmar, India, and Sri Lanka."

Months after Buddhist riots against Muslim targets, the NTJ came to prominence in December when its followers were accused of attacking Buddhist statues in Kegalle district.

NTJ secretary Abdul Razik has been arrested several times on charges of inciting religious unrest.

After one incident in 2016, Galagodaatte Gnanasara, head of a radical Buddhist group, the BSS, warned there would be "a blood bath" unless Razik was arrested. Gnanasara has himself since served a jail term for intimidating the wife of a missing journalist.

There have also been murmurs of intelligence failure after Sri Lanka's police chief issued a warning on April 11, saying a "foreign intelligence agency" had reported NTJ was planning attacks on churches and the Indian high commission.

Church officials said some were told last week that attacks were possible.

(With inputs from AFP)

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