Sri Lankan authorities have arrested five men who were deported from Saudi Arabia earlier today on suspicion of terrorism, including a man reported to have been behind the murder of two policemen in Batticaloa last year.
“These are the five remaining leaders of the April 21 terrorist group,” police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera told reporters, referring to the Easter Sunday attacks that killed more than 250 people.
Amongst those arrested was a man identified as Hayathu Mohamed Ahmed Milhan, who Sri Lankan police claim was a senior member of the National Thawheedh Jamaath (NTJ), the group behind the Easter Sunday attacks.
“He could have been the next leader,” Gunasekera said.
Gunasekera added that Milhan is the main suspect in the murder of two policemen in Batticaloa last year. Sri Lankan authorities had blamed the murder on former LTTE cadres, and arrested several Tamils over the incident.
Cabinet spokesperson Rajitha Senaratne said earlier this year that at least four army officers were involved in organising the assassination of the police officers, and claimed dozens of NTJ were on the payroll of Sri Lankan intelligence linked to Rajapaksa.
Gunasekera also said a total of 102 suspects are now being held in connection with the Easter attacks, though Reuters reports that authorities have arrested more than 2,000 people in connection with the attacks, and 634 remain in detention.