Sri Lanka’s Minister of Public Security Sarath Weerasekara claimed that Naufar Moulavi and Hajjul Akbar, who are members of the Islamic State (IS)-linked National Towheed Jamaat (NTJ), were the masterminds of the Easter Sunday bombings which claimed the lives of over 250 people in 2019.
At a press briefing held on Tuesday, Weerasekara accused the Moulavi, one of the founders of the NTJ, of having brought IS ideology into the country. The accused, along with two others linked to the 2019 attacks, have been charged with conspiring to provide material support to IS, according to an announcement made by the United States Department of Justice earlier this year.
Weerasekara further added that to date, 211 persons have been remanded and 75 are detained on extended detention orders in connection with the bombings.
His statement comes despite a number of Sri Lankan Parliamentarians alleging that NTJ members were being paid by Sri Lankan intelligence and had established links with current President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. An office in Colombo was claimed to be given to the now-banned group by Gotabaya.
Read more here: Gotabaya is real 'master' behind attacks says TNA MP
Sri Lanka's own enquiry has suggested that India may have played a role in the attack and that the accused NTJ leader, Zaharan Hashim, could not have been the ‘mastermind’ behind the attacks, were also made, based on the official report of the PCoI which was finalised in February 2021. One of parliamentary Select Committee members, reasoned this view, saying that “only an experienced group armed with military technology and with a solid intelligence network can carry out such an attack”.
Earlier this week, the Cabinet Sub-Committee, which was appointed to study the findings and recommendations made in the report of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) into the Easter Sunday attacks, submitted to the President its final report. The Committee has identified 78 recommendations and includes ways to implement them. Among the key officials implicated in connection with the attacks are former President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, who failed to prevent the attacks, despite the early warnings.