LNP – SIS Head ignored taking action against NTJ – STF chief

Director of State Intelligence Service (SIS), Nilantha Jayawardena, had ignored a request made by the former head of the Terrorism Investigation Division (TID) and incumbent Commandant of the Special Task Force (STF), Waruna Jayasundara to obtain permission from the President Maithripala Sirisena to take action against National Thowheed Jamaat (NTJ) leader Zahran Hashim and his the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) investigating the Easter Sunday attacks was informed on Friday.

Jayasundara, testifying before the commission, on Friday, said that he had made the request a day before the Easter Sunday attacks.

The witness said that at an Intelligence Review Meeting held on 09 April, 2019, Jayawardena had spoken enthusiastically about Zahran and his extremist activities, but did not tell the others that he had received intelligence that NTJ would carry out an attack.

Jayasundara said that if Jayawardena had shared that information with others, on April 09, the Easter Sunday attacks could have been thwarted with the help of a joint operation.

The Attorney General’s (AG’s) Department representative who led the evidence asked Jayasundara whether he had followed up on the open warrant obtained, on 9 July, 2018, for the arrest of Zahran by DIG Melaka de Silva, who was the Director of the TID before Jayasundara. The witness said that the TID had launched eight operations to arrest Zahran in areas such as Kanttankudy, and Akkaraipattu.

“TID officials went to Zahran’s wife’s house in Kekunugolla on 28 February, 2019, but the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) asked TID officials to leave that place as they were doing the investigation,” Jayasundara said.

Although the TID had obtained a warrant for the arrest of Zahran, the CID was the foremost investigation unit of the Sri Lanka Police, he said.

The witness also said that the intelligence review meeting held on 09 April, 2019 was the first one he had attended. Jayasundara said that he was at the Ministry of Defence over some other matter on that day and the then Inspector General Police (IGP) Pujith Jayasundara had taken him to the meeting.

“It was my first time there. I noted that the then SIS Director Jayawardana drawing attention of others to Zahran and his activities. Although he made a lengthy statement that Zahran was a serious threat, but he did not utter a single word about the intelligence report he had already received about the possibility of an attack by Zahran and his associates.” However, the following day the IGP had sent the TID an intelligence report warning of a possible attack. Jayasundara said, adding that after receiving the information, he had immediately summoned the OIC and the ASP of the TID and instructed them to take necessary action.

“I also got an intelligence officer in the Chilaw area to check whether Zahran was staying in the Wanathavilluwa area,” he said.

Jayasundara said that on 19 April, 2019, the former SIS Director had telephoned him and asked if he was aware of any incident in Kattankudi. “He told me that was a big problem there. He also mentioned that there would be an attack. The manner in which he spoke, clearly indicated that he was very nervous.”

The witness said that he had requested the former SIS Director to obtain permission from the President to deploy an STF team to stop Zahran and his associates.

“But there was no response from him,” the witness said.

Jayasundara said that when he was in charge of intelligence at the STF, two special camps had been set up in the Kalawanchikudi and Arugambay areas and about 13 intelligence officers deployed due to the growing extremist activities in the Eastern Province.

However, by October 2018, the then Commandant of the STF, M.R. Latheef had removed those intelligence officers as well as the two camps, he said.

Therefore, from October 2018 until the time of the Easter Sunday bombings, STF intelligence officers were not on surveillance duty in the Eastern Province. Thus, there had been no weekly intelligence input from that area, DIG Jayasundara told the PCoI.

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