National Thowheed Jamaat (NTJ) Leader Zahran Hashim had planned to carry out the coordinated terror attack on April 21, 2019, using 20 suicide bombers, the PCoI probing Easter Sunday attacks was informed yesterday.
Testifying before the Commission, an investigation officer attached to the Terrorism Investigation Division (TID) said during the interrogation by a member of Zahran's clan, who was in the custody said they were preparing to carry out a wave of attacks in three stages after the first attack on April 21.
The officer said during investigations, the TID found that by March 2019, there was a clash between Zahran and Naufer Moulavi, who was identified as the mentor of NTJ and Zahran Hashim.
"Alahuddin Ahamed Muaad, the suicide bomber of St. Anthony's church in Kochchikade and Abdul Latheef Jameel Mohammed, who detonated himself at the Tropical Inn, Dehiwala had hatched a plan in resolving the conflict between Zahran and Naufer Moulavi," he said.
During the investigation it was also informed that the two of them had arrived in a car near the Mount Lavinia railway station and picked up three more members of the NTJ and went to Zahran's safehouse at Paraththa Road, Panadura to discuss the above matter.
During the testimony the officer said that Zahran Hashim and suicide bomber of the Katuwapitiya Church, Mohammed Hastun was inside the safe house at that time.
"What was the discussion they had?" the representative from the Attorney General's (AG) questioned the witness.
Responding to the question the witness said that the NTJ had a Shura Council with 13 members and one of them, Milhan, had presented 19 allegations against Zahran.
"Milhan wanted to remove Zahran as the NTJ Leader and appoint Naufer Moulavi. During the discussion they also decided to share their property. However, Ilham Ibrahim, the Shangrila-La suicide bomber who served at the NTJ Shura Council stated that he didn't give the money to the NTJ, but to the Zahran. If they want Naufer Moulavi can be given a house and a weapon, Ilham had told at the discussion," the investigation officer said.
During the testimony the witness also said that Zahran had planned a retaliation again the Christchurch incident in New Zealand and the attacks in Syria. Zahran also said that hotels, casinos ans churches with large number of foreigners should be attacked, he said.
The representative from the AG's department then questioned the witness according to Zahran's plan as to how long the attack would be carried out.
"The explosives made by Zahran and his brother Rilwan had a chance to expire by 15 days. Therefore, the attack should be done within 15 days. The plan was made to carry out the attack on April 21, 2019 at the NTJ safe house in Negombo," the witness said.
The officer who testified further said, at the above mentioned time, Muaad, the suicide bomber of the St. Anthony's church has said that he has a church in Kochchikade near his house and he will commit suicide there.
The officer also said that on an earlier occasion, Zahran had summoned members of his group in the Malwana area and obtained a signature from them to choose whether to commit suicide or die in the war and prepare to sacrifice their lives for Jihad.
During the testimony the witness also said that Zahran had not decided the date to carry out the attack until March 24, 2019.
"During this discussion, did Zahran make a statement that he would launch an attack outside Colombo?" The Commissioner questioned the witness.
"After the meeting with Muaad, it has been suggested to go to Nuwara Eliya to find the whereabouts of foreigners and launch an attack, but they have left in fear," the investigating officer testified.
The witness also said that Zahran had planned to carry out the attack in three stages on the same day at their hard targets, the places where crowds gathered and near the hospitals. (Yoshitha Perera)