A Sri Lankan parliamentarian claimed the former defence secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa gave the National Thawheed Jammath (NTJ) land for an office in Colombo, amidst claims the organisation was on the Sri Lankan intelligence payroll.
Members of the NTJ are accused of carrying out the Easter Sunday attacks that killed hundreds of people on suicide bomb explosions at churches and hotels across the island. The organisation has since been banned by the Sri Lankan government.
Kurunegala District UNP MP Thushara Indunil however claimed that the NTJ received support from Rajapaksa, who announced that he would the running for president in elections set to be held later this year.
“It was during the previous regime that NTJ was nurtured,” claimed Indunil. “The former Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa helped strengthen the NTJ by devoting a plot of land in Colombo for the office of NTJ.”
His claims come after Sri Lanka’s cabinet spokesperson said at least 26 members of the NTJ were funded by Sri Lankan intelligence.
Indunil said the All Ceylon Jamiyathul Ulema had warned the Sri Lankan government “as early as 2014” about the emergence of the NTJ and Islamic extremists on the island. “If the former Defence Secretary was privy to this information, we ask of what he did then, knowing the threats it posed,” he said.
“He tried to divide the peaceful community of Muslims into two. He knew that it would help him in his political endeavours which is why he strengthened one group against the other. Basil Rajapaksa said that there are 200 such mosques and the defence secretary assisted in setting them up.”
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Cabinet spokesperson Rajitha Senaratne said that at least four army officers were involved in organising the assassination of police officers in Batticaloa last year, and claimed dozens of NTJ were on the payroll of Sri Lankan intelligence linked to Rajapaksa.
Several reports have now emerged of how the Sri Lankan government had been repeatedly warned of the threat posed by the NTJ and given details of an imminent attack threatening churches. No action was taken.
The Easter Sunday attacks are confirmed to have killed over 250 people.