The Islamic radical group National Towheeth Jamaath is suspected to be responsible for the deadly Easter blasts in Sri Lanka that has killed nearly 290 people and left 500 others wounded, in what could be called the deadliest attack the country has faced ever since the LTTE war.
Sri Lankan Health Minister and Government spokesperson Rajitha Senaratne said the National Towheeth Jamaath was suspected to be behind the deadly serial bomb blasts. He also said that all suicide bombers involved in the blasts were believed to be Sri Lankan nationals. “There may be international links to them (National Towheeth Jamaath),” he added.
Seven suicide bombers were involved in eight blasts that targeted St Anthony’s Church in Colombo, St Sebastian’s Church in Negombo and Zeon Church in Batticaloa when the Easter Sunday mass were in progress. The explosions also struck three five-star hotels in Colombo – the Shangri-La, the Cinnamon Grand and the Kingsbury.
The National Towheeth Jamaath, which preaches a puritanical form of Islam, was formed in Kattankudy, a Muslim-dominated town in eastern Sri Lanka, in 2014. The group has been pushing for Sharia law in the region and wants women to dress only in burqas.
The Jerusalem Post reported that the alleged suicide bomber and mastermind behind the attack on the Shangri La hotel had been identified as Islamic extremist Moulvi Zahran Hashim, who was a lecturer for National Towheeth Jamaath.
The Sri Lanka police chief had issued an alert on April 11 regarding suicide bombers belonging to National Towheeth Jamaath planning to target “prominent churches” and the Indian High Commission in Colombo.
Police chief Pujuth Jayasundara had sent the intelligence warning to top officers after India had passed on specific intelligence to the Lankan authorities that a terrorist attack was imminent there.
“A foreign intelligence agency has reported that the NTJ (National Thowheeth Jama’ath) is planning to carry out suicide attacks targeting prominent churches as well as the Indian high commission in Colombo,” said the alert.