Sri Lanka Thowheed Jamath (SLTJ) President A. K. Hisham said yesterday he had informed intelligence officers that the mastermind behind the Easter Sunday attacks Zaharan Hashim had come to Akkaraipattu in a Prado a month prior to when the attacks took place.
Testifying before the Parliament Select Committee (PSC) appointed to probe the circumstances behind the Easter Sunday attack, he said the security forces had acted on the information given by them to a certain extent but their efforts were not sufficient.
He said he even gave the telephone number of Zaharan’s brother Zain to intelligence officers a month before the attacks took place.
The excerpts of the proceedings are as follows.
M.A. Sumanthiran: Had Zaharan been a member of the SLTJ?
Hisham: No, he had never been a member of the SLTJ. We had religious differences. We acted against his opinions.
Sumanthiran: Do you have any connection with the Tamil Nadu Thowheed Jamaath?
Hisham: Yes, we have some religious connections.
Rauff Hakeem: Did you invite P. Jainulabideen to come to Sri Lanka?
Hisham: Yes, We brought him here. We translated his speech into Tamil.
Hakeem: He made a controversial statement. That is why he was prevented from coming here.
Hisham: He was deported after a controversial incident in Akurana.
Ashu Marasinghe: Is your organisation the first Thowheed Jamaath that started in Sri Lanka?
Hisham: No, Thowheed Jamaath started in Sri Lanka 50 years ago. Our organisation the SLTJ started in 2005. It was however registered only in 2010.
Hakeem: Thowheed Jamaath came under lot of suspicion after the April 21 attack?
Hisham: This is wrong. Thowheed means believing in one God.
Sumanthiran: If you say Zaharan was not provoked to terrorism due to the beliefs held by the Thowheed, what really provoked him to practice terrorism?
Hisham: He may have resorted to terrorism after the Beruwala and Digana incidents.
Sumanthiran: Can you say if Zaharan was directly connected to ISIS?
Hisham: No, he did not directly say so. His dressing and all proved this. He talked of IS principles.
Sumanthiran: Have you listened to Zaharan’s speeches on extremism before April 21?
Hisham: Yes, we organized a press conference on 16.3.2017 where we warned that he had connections with ISIS and that it is a serious situation. We even informed the CID of this.
Sarath Fonseka: Has he said that non-Islamic persons should be killed?
Hashim: Yes, he has clearly said so.
SF: Did you mention about Zaharan’s opinion that non-Islamic persons should be killed when you complained about him to the CID in 2017?
Hashim: Yes, I did. I even gave them a video which shows him making this claim. The CID asked me a month before the attacks if I knew about Zaharan and asked me to help them. I informed the relevant authorities about him. I informed an intelligence officer that Zaharan had come to Akkaraipattu in a Prado.
Sumanthiran: In March 2019?
Hisham: Yes, February or early March. I cannot say exactly.
SF: Did you tell it to one person and only once?
Hisham: Yes. They asked me to remember the vehicle number of the Prado in which Zaharan had come in.
Sumanthiran: Did you give it?
Hisham: I said I will try to remember.
Sumanthiran: Who gave the information about Zaharan’s whereabouts to you?
Hisham: One of our members in Akkaraipattu, Nindaur
SF: Which intelligence service did you provide the information to?
Hisham: Army intelligence.
SF: Did you inform them that you think he is a terrorist?
Hisham: No, we never thought he would do something so drastic. He had been absconding court. That is why we informed the police.
SF: Do you have any connection with M.L.A.M. Hisbullah?
Hisham: I have no personal contact with him.
Marasinghe: How many Muslims are connected to Thowheed?
Hisham: 20% of Muslims are connected to Thowheed
Jayampathy Wickramaratne: Is there a connection between ISIS and Thowheed?
Hisham: No, there is no connection. Thowheed believers are against ISIS.
Wickramaratne: Why was Zaharan provoked into terrorism?
Hisham: As of my knowledge this happened after Muslims were harassed in Digana and Aluthgama. They were attacked in the presence of police in Digana.
Ananda Kumarasiri: You said earlier that you had informed the authorities about Zaharan in 2017?
Hisham: Yes, we informed them in 2016 and 17 continuously. A month before the attack I gave them Zaharan’s brother Zain’s telephone number as well.
Kumarasiri: You say that they did not act on the information?
Hisham: They tried. But, not hard enough. They could have published his photo and sought public assistance. We though he had fled to another country. But he has been here all along. He had been in Hambantota as well. (Ajith Siriwardana and Yohan Perera)