Muslim extremists groups had been propagating armed extremism since 2008 - 2009 by pointing out that they were trying to secure from the LTTE and a person named Zahran was also attached to one of the 18 armed extremists groups emerged during that time, former SDIG Eastern Province Edison Gunathilaka on Saturday informed the PCoI probing Easter Sunday attacks.
Testifying before the Commission, former SDIG Gunathilaka said that former Minister Rishad Bathiudeen, former Eastern Province Governor M. L. A. M. Hizbullah and politician A. L. M. Athaullah had provided security for these extremist groups that emerged in the Eastern Province.
"At that time Hizbullah had started planting date palms in the Eastern part of the country by removing parts of the middle of the road. During this time the price of a date palm tree was around Rs.30,000 - 40,000," he said.
Witness also said that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who was the then Defence Secretary, had a keen interest in getting rid of these extremists groups and that he had even informed General Kapila Hendavitharana about the following incidents. "Muslim groups in Kattankudy and Eravur areas were armed like terrorists. They were given a grace period to hand over their weapons after the LTTE conflict and they handed over broken weapons," he said.
When the representative from the Attorney General's (AG) department questioned the witness with regard to Islamic extremists groups Mr. Gunathilaka said that year 2008 marked the beginning of the first extremist groups. "It starts with the name Islamic Centre. These people created various issues in the Eastern Province. They killed people and punished whoever they want," he said.
Witness also said that former Governor of the Western Province Alavi Moulana instructed to prevent the formation of these extremists groups. Former SDIG also said that Thawheed Jamaath organisations had sprung up in many parts of the world, including India.
When Commissioners questioned the witness about Zahran he said that he had recorded Zahran's name as a member of one extremist group and also former Eastern Governor Hizbullah was also a leader of one of these armed groups.(Yoshitha Perera)