NIA team in Sri Lanka to help in Easter bombings case

NIA team in Sri Lanka to help in Easter bombings caseNEW DELHI: A two-member team of India’s NIA is in Sri Lanka to hold discussions with authorities about a probe in the Easter Sunday bombings over claims that some terrorists, owning allegiance to ISIS (Islamic State), had travelled to India, including Kashmir, officials said Wednesday.

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) team is led by Inspector General Alok Mittal, who has probed various ISIS-related cases in South India, including a conspiracy by the terror module to kill prominent leaders.

During investigations in the case, the NIA had alerted the island nation that ISIS terrorists were planning to carry out strikes there. India had been regularly sharing intelligence inputs about a possible terror attack in Sri Lanka targeting the Indian High Commission and religious places there.

The inputs to Sri Lanka were sent through diplomatic channels after a thorough investigation pertaining to the ISIS case in Coimbatore was carried out by the NIA, which has filed a charge sheet against seven people.

The Indian delegation will give a detailed briefing about its probe during which it had stumbled upon videos of National Thowheed Jamaat (NTJ) leader Zahran Hashim, which was indicative of a terror attack on religious places as well as the Indian High Commission in Colombo.

Hashim was among the nine suicide bombers, including a woman, who carried out a series of blasts in Sri Lanka in which 253 people were killed April 21.

The videos, seized from the accused in the Coimbatore case, showed Hashim asking youths from Sri Lanka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala to establish an Islamic rule in the region.

After the blasts in Sri Lanka, the NIA had arrested 29-year-old Riyas A, also known as Riyas Aboobacker or Abu Dujana, a resident of Palakkad. He is alleged to be in touch with Hashim on social media platforms, the officials said.

The accused had disclosed during investigations that he had been following speeches of Hashim for more than a year and has also followed the speeches delivered by controversial Islamic preacher Zakir Naik.

According to inputs with the central agencies, Hashim had spent time in India last year during which he attempted to influence youths in Tamil Nadu and Kerala to join him.

Hashim had parted ways from Sri Lankan National Thowheeth Jamaat (NTJ) to form his own outfit Nation of Thowheed Jamaat which is alleged to have carried out the Easter attacks in Sri Lanka.

The team will also ask about the claims made by Lieutenant General Mahesh Senanayake, the commander of the Sri Lankan Army that the suicide bombers had travelled to some cities in India, including Kashmir.

“They (the suspects) have gone to India, they’ve gone to Kashmir, Bangalore, they’ve travelled to Kerala state. Those are the information available with us,” he had told BBC earlier this month.

However, the Jammu and Kashmir police had denied about it and had asked the Sri Lanakan authorities to share more information about it.

Some officials of the central security agencies said that about a dozen Sri Lankan nationals had come to Kashmir Valley this year and their credentials have been re-checked after the bombings in three churches and three luxury hotels killed 253 people and injured over 500 others.

However, there could be a possibility of the bombers visiting the state using pseudonyms, one of the officials said, adding if Sri Lanka hands over some evidence, it can be verified from the ground.

The Sri Lankan Army chief had said that some of the suicide bombers, who carried out the country’s worst terror attack, visited Kashmir and Kerala for “some sorts of training” or to “make some more links” with other foreign outfits. PTI