Sri Lanka’s Catholic Church has alleged that a section of the military intelligence had connections with 2019 Easter Sunday suicide bombers who were suspected to have links with Syria’s ISIS.
Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, the head of the Archdiocesan of Catholic Church, complained that the connection between the military intelligence and suicide bombers that was revealed during the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) into the multiple bomb blasts has not been investigated by the government, which has kept it a secret so far.
“The Directorate of Military Intelligence has had dealings with Zaharan Hashim’s outfit. We have to wonder what those dealings were – dealings that were conducted through the person known as Army Mohideen, which was brought up at the PCoI. Were these investigated,” questioned Cardinal at a press conference in Colombo.
Hashim led a group of suicide bombers that exploded themselves on April 21, 2019 at three churches, three hotels and a guesthouse, killing 269 people and injuring over 500 others.
The Cardinal had said last month that Indian intelligence agencies had passed detailed information about the attack, including the date, but the Sri Lankan military did not take any action to prevent the massacre.
He also alleged that the PCoI report and other information he received have confirmed that a Sri Lankan military intelligence officer, referred to with the codename ‘Sonic-Sonic’, through a local agent and an unspecified person in Indonesia had forced ISIS to claim responsibility for the Easter Sunday attacks.
“Why was such an attempt made to place the responsibility on the ISIS? This means someone who was responsible for the attack here had tried to do it. Why was that? We don’t know if it was an attempt to prevent the discovery of who was actually behind the attack. That means someone here tried to hide it,” said Cardinal Ranjith.
Few days after the attack, the media reported that the Amaq news agency, a news outlet linked to the ISIS, had in fact claimed responsibility for the attacks but it did not offer evidence of its connection in the blasts.
On April 23, 2019, the international media had quoted Amaq news, which had released photos and a video which allegedly showed eight attackers pledging allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
The Cardinal also complained that the identity of a military intelligence officer, who allegedly had dealings with one of the suicide bombers, Jameel, who had attempted to attack the Taj Samudra Hotel in Colombo before seemingly changing his mind, was also unclear.
On July 13, Cardinal Ranjith had also alleged that the government is hiding the ‘grand conspiracy’ and trying to sweep the truth behind the Easter Sunday attack under the carpet.
In a 20-page letter signed by eight bishops, including Cardinal Ranjith and some Catholic priests, the church demanded legal action against former President Maithripala Sirisena and action be taken against former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe for their soft approach towards Islamic terrorism.
Cardinal Ranjith claimed that the Sri Lankan intelligence ignored the comprehensive information given in advance by the Indian intelligence agencies on the series of attacks.
On August 11, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s Director Legal, Hariguptha Rohanadheera responded to Cardinal Ranjith in a letter and informed that the Attorney General (AG) had indicted 25 accused on 23,370 charges.
Criticising the government’s response and action to prosecute 25 accused of the murder of 269 church goers and guests at three star class hotels, the Cardinal on Friday said that he has suspicion that only “small fish” are caught in the investigators’ net while the “big fish” were let go.
Cardinal Ranjith stated that facts have been already presented. They are mentioned in the PCoI report, but the government has selectively taken the outcome for its political advantage.
“We cannot allow the incident that shook the entire nation to be brushed under the carpet. Until then we will not stop this protest movement,” he said and urged all Sri Lankans as a sign of protest to raise a black flag on their houses and vehicles on August 21, the day which marks the 28th month of Easter Sunday attack on April 21, 2019.