Almost all the intelligence on National Thowheed Jamaat (NTJ) leader Zahran Hashim was collected through social media platforms and there was a marked reluctance to obtain ground-level intelligence about him, a senior staff officer attached to the Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI) on Thursday informed the Commission probing the Easter Sunday attacks.
The witness who did not wish to be named informed the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) that he had served at the office of the Chief of National Intelligence (CNI) between 2017 and 2019.
He informed the PCoI that most of the intelligence information was received through open sources and it was a very rarely if at all was any direct information obtained about Zahran.
"Some details about Zahran was received from the DMI and the State Intelligence Service (SIS) but according my recollection most of the intelligence was obtained through social media platforms," the witness said.
He said Zahran had begun online radicalization and the CNI found it to be a serious threat to national security.
During his testimony, the witness presented a dissertation with regard to the problem and prospects of Muslim militancy and its implications for national security in Sri Lanka.
He said he had met Zahran in October 2013 while he was researching for his dissertation.
"I met Zahran at his NTJ office in Kattankudy and he did not recognise me as an intelligence officer. I interviewed him for about two hours," the witness said adding that at the interview Zahran claimed Muslims in Sri Lanka were being harassed by non-Muslims and responsible officials were unable to stop it.
He said Zahran claimed that Muslims did not have media freedom to express their grievances and the government was not taking any steps to ban the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) and the Rawana Balalaya.
The witness said according to the Oluvil declaration, the Muslims asked for a separate territory in the East coast to enhance their identity and accomplish certain political gains.
"The group of Muslim students who presented this declaration clearly stated that, they were inspired by the Tamil declaration called the 'Vaddukkodai declaration' about having a separate region," he said.
The witness added that he wanted to publish his thesis as a book but was warned by his supervisors, on 2015, that the then administration would not be too happy and that he might lose his job. (Yoshitha Perera)