Lanka terror: Abettors from Tamil Nadu

But the whodunit was no mystery to India or Sri Lanka. India, which knew the culprits, informed Sri Lanka weeks ahead of the carnage. And Sri Lanka, which got the input, too, knew the sinners.
A view of St. Sebastian's Church damaged in blast in Negombo, north of Colombo, Sri Lanka, Sunday, April 21, 2019. | (File | AP)
A view of St. Sebastian's Church damaged in blast in Negombo, north of Colombo, Sri Lanka, Sunday, April 21, 2019. | (File | AP)

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) proudly announced that it had “blessed” the dastardly 21/4 terror attack in Sri Lanka that killed more than 250 people and maimed over 500. The ISIS only claimed it had blessed the attack. It is the motivator. Inspirer. Not the perpetrator. Whodunit, then?

But the whodunit was no mystery to India or Sri Lanka. India, which knew the culprits, informed Sri Lanka weeks ahead of the carnage. And Sri Lanka, which got the input, too, knew the sinners. The way Sri Lanka threw the Indian input in the dustbin is indeed reckless. Also the way Indian authorities delayed domestic action on the abettors till after their counterparts bombed Sri Lanka defies explanation. The receiver of information not acting on it and the provider acting only after knowing the cost of the receiver’s failure is an interesting parallel.

Info on who, when, how and targets—given to Sri Lanka

The Indian government had provided very specific information about Sri Lanka’s National Thowheed Jamath (NTJ) conspiring to use human bombs. The Associated Press reported Indian authorities had stumbled upon the detailed plot for the Easter Sunday killings in Sri Lanka. They broke into the plotters’ communications and tapped into the plot, said Ajai Sahni, executive director, Institute for Conflict Management in New Delhi. Sahni said, “That is why the kind of detailing of the incident they received was very, very specific.” He added, “They knew the group, the targets, the time, the whereabouts of the suicide bombers” and communicated all that to the Lankan government. Top Lankan leaders acknowledged they got specific alerts. They admitted they did little to prevent the carnage and even offered an apology. But they did not answer why they ignored the specific input.

Sri Lanka ignored? Or laughed?

Why did the Lankan government ignore the specific Indian input? Put simply, and bluntly, it did not believe the Indian intelligence input because it thought that first, the NTJ was not that evil, and next, it was too small to do such a big thing. And so, it must have thought the Indian government was misled into passing wrong information. No surmise, this conclusion is inevitable from two statements of the Sri Lankan establishment. First, on the day of the attack, Alim Mohammed Lebbe Hizbulla, Governor of The Eastern Province of Sri Lanka, dismissed the news that NTJ was the culprit, even certifying it as innocent.

Lies of TN Thowheed Jamath over Lanka terror nailed

Earlier in the day, Indian strategic expert Brahma Chellaney had asserted it was an NTJ strike. Even on the next day, when it had become clear that NTJ was the culprit, a cabinet minister of the Sri Lankan government said, “We don’t see that a small organisation in this country can do all that”— pointing to how they would have assessed the Indian input before the attack. If even after the massive attack a Governor would say NTJ was innocent, and a cabinet minister thought NTJ was too small to do that, would the Sri Lankan government not have laughed when the Indian government said it was that petty organisation that was planning such a big act? This is despite the fact that the Sri Lankan police chief had sounded out the nation on April 11—10 days before the attack—that a foreign intelligence agency had sent an alert on NTJ planning suicide attacks on Christian churches and the Indian high commission. Obviously the police issued the alert ritually and no one in Sri Lanka believed NTJ would or could do it.

Not just this, there seem to have been a couple of more reasons why Sri Lanka did not believe the Indian input. We need to recall the history of NTJ and the profile of the terrorists to understand why Sri Lanka did not see the Indian input on the group 
as credible.

Ideological siblings

The ISIS released a video clip of eight terrorists whose extended hands were over each other, taking a collective oath of loyalty to ISIS chief Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi. In that picture, all faces except one were masked. The visible one was of Zahran Hashim, head of NTJ. Another notable feature in the picture was the hand of a woman. NTJ did split from Sri Lanka Thowheed Jamath in 2016, but that was more personal than ideological. Zahran Hashim was a motivating orator in Tamil with deep connections in Tamil Nadu. The cluster of Thowheed Jamaths is like this: All India Thowheed Jamath (AITJ) and Tamil Nadu Thowheed Jamath (TNTJ) in India and Sri Lanka Thowheed Jamath (SLTJ) and National Thowheed Jamath (NTJ) in Sri Lanka.

Immediately after NTJ was exposed as the perpetrator of terror, its counterpart, the Tamil Nadu Thowheed Jamath, began claiming it had nothing to do with its Sri Lankan cousin. That the claim was completely false has been brought out by the South Asia Studies Project (SASP) of the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI). MEMRI is a Washington-based think tank on the Middle East. A report by SASP (MEMRI) dated 23.4.2019 said that both TN Thowheed Jamath and the then undivided Thowheed Jamath in Sri Lanka have had a relationship for more than a decade. It added that in November 2015, TN Thowheed Jamath Moulvi P Jainul Abideen was invited to Sri Lanka by SLTJ but the Sri Lankan Muslims protested “the visit of fundamentalist Tamil Nadu Muslim leader P Jainul Abideen, known as PJ”. SASP also noted that the Sri Lankan government deported Jainul Abideen “on the same grounds” in 2005. SASP further wrote: “PJ is not liked by sections of Lankan Muslims because he campaigns against certain popular practices among Muslims, which he considers un-Islamic.”

They allege that both TN Thowheed Jamath and Sri Lanka’s Thowheed Jamath have accepted crores of rupees from Saudi Arabia for spreading Wahhabi Islam. In 2015, R Abdur Razik, the general secretary of the Sri Lankan National Thowheed Jamath admitted both Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka Thowheed Jamaths were bound by a common ideology, confirming that PJ, Tamil Nadu Thowheed Jamath and Sri Lanka’s Thowheed Jamath are only promoting true Islam, unadulterated by non-Islamic influences. Despite openly admitting in 2015 that the Sri Lankan and Tamil Nadu Thowheed Jamaths were ideological siblings, the Tamil Nadu wing began lying after the Easter Sunday carnage that it was being wrongly associated with Sri Lanka’s Thowheed Jamath because of the common name. The SASP report concluded citing clear evidence that the Tamil Nadu Thowheed Jamath statement that “We have nothing to do with them (Sri Lanka Thowheed Jamath),” and its assertion, “We don’t even know who they are,” are clearly false. Tamil Nadu and Sri Lankan Thowheed Jamaths are siblings, even precursors to the ISIS, with the TN outfit being the mentor of the Lankan group. Read on.

TN Thowheed Jamath, the  precursor to ISIS
Three years ago (1.3.2016), SASP had reported “All India Thowheed Jamath— An ISIS Precursor—Holds Anti-Polytheism Conference In India’s Tamil Nadu State.” The evil significance of this event was left unnoticed. Describing the anti-shirk conference at Tiruchy on January 31, 2016, SASP Director Tufail Ahmad said the TN Thowheed Jamath, with its predominant position, virtually meant it was the All India Thowheed Jamath in Tamil Nadu.

“At the very least,” Tufail wrote, “the TN Thowheed Jamath, or its parent organisation, the All India Thowheed Jamath, is a precursor to ISIS. Theologically, the TN Thowheed Jamath stands for demolishing all idols—much like the Taliban that demolished the Buddhas or the ISIS that demolished human figures in Iraq and Syria.” Tufail added: “The concept of shirk is an important principle for all Islamic groups, especially the Deobandi groups. The anti-shirk conference in Tamil Nadu should be a cause of concern, because a 29-year-old from this state, Mohammed Naser Packeer, was recently deported by Sudan after trying to enter Libya to join the ISIS.

There were also previous incidents in which young Singapore-based Tamil Muslims joined the ISIS in Syria.” That in the coastal town of Thondi in Ramanathapuram district in 2014, as many as 26 young Muslim men posed for a group photograph sporting black T-shirts with the ISIS logo in front of a mosque, should also have been a matter of concern. But shockingly the local police had dismissed the incident as if it was harmless fun! Tufail says The All India Thowheed Jamath was founded by Jainul Abideen, who wields political influence in TN.

Now recall the Sri Lankan Muslims’ agitation against the undivided Sri Lanka Thowheed Jamath inviting him to Sri Lanka in 2015. He was the man who was the connect between Thowheed Jamath in Sri Lanka and the TN Thowheed Jamath. The Daily Mirror in Sri Lanka (8.11.2015) reported: “The Sri Lankan government is likely to deny entry to P Jainul Abideen, better known as PJ, the founder and star speaker of the fundamentalist Tamil Nadu Thowheed Jamath. A powerful section of Lankan Muslims who fear that PJ’s presence in the island will disturb intra-Muslim and inter-religious harmony are putting pressure on the government to cancel his visa. Earlier in 2005, PJ was deported on the same grounds.”

But, noted the Daily Mirror, “the Sri Lanka Thowheed Jamath general secretary R Abdur Razik says that TN Thowheed Jamath and Sri Lankan Thowheed Jamath are only promoting true Islam, unadulterated by non-Islamic influences.” Thanks to the protests of moderate Muslims, Jainul Abideen was denied visa by the Sri Lankan authorities. It is undeniable that the Thowheed Jamaths in Indian and Sri Lanka are ideological cousins affiliated to the ISIS. But the association does not end with ideological connect. It extends to terror operations also. And that is how the Indian authorities stumbled on the operational link between TN Thowheed Jamath in India and Thowheed Jamaths in Sri Lanka—with Zahran Hashim, the Tamil-speaking moulvi who inspired the richest Muslim family of Sri Lanka turn into human bombs. Now unfolds the more interesting part of the story.

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