Monday, Dec 09, 2019 | Last Update : 07:42 PM IST

Lankan spy chief sat on Easter bomb attack intel?

THE ASIAN AGE. | VINEETA PANDEY
Published : Oct 27, 2019, 1:40 am IST
Updated : Oct 27, 2019, 2:26 am IST

Incidentally, it was the same time when the Indian defence secretary was visiting the Island country and security was on a high due to his visit.

The PSC said that at no point in the lead up to the attacks was the political leadership informed by anyone in the security and intelligence apparatus.  (Photo: AP)
 The PSC said that at no point in the lead up to the attacks was the political leadership informed by anyone in the security and intelligence apparatus. (Photo: AP)

New Delhi: Director of Sri Lankan intelligence agency (SIS) sat on inputs that kept coming to him from April 4 onwards — 17 days in advance — with regard to terror bombings that shook the Island nation on April 21, 2019, a report of Select Committee of Lankan Parliament (PSC) said. The report also blamed the “bitter fight” between President Maithripala Sirisena and his PM Ranil Wickremesinghe that led to a political crisis last year contributed to the security failures on Easter.

The PSC said that fissures between President Sirisena and PM Wickremesinghe contributed to the security crisis on April 21 as the President left out his PM, state minister for Defence and others from key meetings and briefings including the National Security Council (NSC).

It was also found that Nilantha Jayawardane, director SIS of Lanka, had received information about a possible terror attack in the country in which churches, Indian high commission (IHC) and hotels with Indian guests were to be target on April 4 but there were delays on his part in sharing the intelligence which eventually saw about 300 deaths and leftover 400 wounded in terror attack. Eight Indians were among those killed.

This paper on April 22, a day after the attack, had reported that a warning by Indian intelligence was sent to the Lankan authorities on April 7 that National Thowheed Jamaat (NTJ) would target churches in Colombo as well as the IHC and possibly, an Indian owned hotel. However, the letter from the Lankan police chief, Pujuth Jayasundara, dated April 11, to his police officers, in which he sent out a nation-wide alert and clearly stated that suicide bombers planned to blow up ‘prominent churches’ and the IHC, remained unheeded.

PSC also found out that despite a series of alerts kept reaching the director of SIS from April 4 onwards, including from India on April 7, he did not take prompt action. In fact, the first person the director of SIS informed was the chief of national intelligence (CNI) on April 7 and no one else was informed. However, the CNI told the PSC that he was given the intelligence information on the morning of April 8 following which he informed the secretary of defence.

“CNI was unable to meet the defence secretary on 8th morning as the Indian defence secretary was visiting Sri Lanka,” the PSC said in its findings. On April 9, 2019, the Intelligence Coordinating Meeting (ICM) took place for the first time after the intelligence information was received on April 4.

It was found that on 20th April, the director of SIS again received a Whatsapp message from his source saying: “They (Zahran Hashim of NTJ) are likely to carry out their attack in Sri Lanka at any time on or before 21.04.2019.”

On 21st April morning around 8.27 a.m., the director of SIS received another message saying: “They are likely to operate between 0600 hours and 1000 hours today. For your kind information, Sir…One of their targets is a Methodist Church, Colombo.”

The PSC said that at no point in the lead up to the attacks was the political leadership informed by anyone in the security and intelligence apparatus.

This was during a period between 4-21 April 2019 (period of 17 days) when some in the intelligence, security and law and order apparatus were aware of intelligence received and the explosion on 16th April. “The President was out of Sri Lanka and in his absence the Prime Minister was not kept informed of the intelligence,” the report said.

It was after April 9 the Indian high commission etc were conveyed that the modes of attack may include suicide attack, weapon attack, knife attack or truck attack by NTJ and the team members of the planned suicide attack include Zahran Hashim, Ja Al Quithal, Rilwan, Saji Moulavi, Shahid, Milhan and others. But no dates were given as to when the attack was to be carried out.

Incidentally, it was the same time when the Indian defence secretary was visiting the Island country and security was on a high due to his visit.

The investigations carried out subsequent to the Easter Sunday bomb attacks also established that the lack of proper checks and balances in the financial system helped organisations to carry out financial transactions “unnoticed/undetected”, thereby facilitating terrorist activities in Sri Lanka. Post the attacks, it was revealed that the participants in the financial system have failed to trace and report suspicious transaction promptly and regulators have not fulfilled their regulatory responsibilities.

Tags: sri lankan intelligence agency, easter bomb attack
Location: India, Delhi, New Delhi