For the first time since serial blasts ripped through Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday, the name of the local jihadist militant outfit National Tawheed Jamath has been officially taken as the one that caused the explosions.
Lankan Minister and government spokesperson, Rajitha Senaratne, has said that National Tawheed Jamath is suspected of plotting the eight serial blasts in which at least 290 people were killed and around 500 people injured.
The Lankan authorities have taken into custody 24 suspects and are interrogating them.
But while the attackers are indeed Lankan nationals, the Minister said that “foreign links” are suspected to be behind the criminals.
This is where things get a little dicey for India. For, there is a Tawheed Jamath (also spelled ‘Thawheed Jamaat’) active in Tamil Nadu.
The TN outfit, though registered as a social service organisation, has been known for its controversial and hardline Islamic stand.
Its founder leader, P Jainulabdeen, has gained a reputation for making rabid and contentious statements. His videos in Tamil are meant to incite the Muslim youth. Two year back, after the death of former President Abdul Kalam, Jainulabdeen refused to call him a Muslim. “His name maybe Abdul Kalam, but that doesn’t make him Muslim. He who only worships Allah is a Muslim. But Abdul Kalam prayed to idols and he bowed before naked godmen.”
Though officially the group has no terrorist record in India, it is still under the watch list of the Indian security agencies. Tawheed Jamath has considerable hold among the Muslim youth in these parts, and there have been charges that youth were being radicalised by the group’s preachings. “The group has been active, especially with regard to supply of manpower to other areas,” says a senior police official in Tamil Nadu. “A few other allegations are also there. But to go about it now may not be right,” he adds.
Getting back to Lanka, it is also confirmed that there was specific intelligence tip-off about the impending bomb blasts. Deputy inspector general Priyalal Dassanayake specifically wrote that the radical Islamist group National Tawheed Jamaath was planning nationwide attacks. In 2016, Colombo had reported that 32 Sri Lankans had joined ISIS, but the terrorist group is not known to have a presence in the country.
It is suggested that a foreign nation had provided the lead to Lankan officials about the possible strikes. And the country in question is India.
If India had indeed provided the tip-off, and as Lankan Minister now says that foreign links to the local jihadists cannot be ruled out, the larger contour of the jigsaw may be apparent. “It is too early to speculate anything. But we are keeping a close tab on the activities of folks here,” says the police official in Chennai.
Intelligence sources here are understandably quiet, but there has been some activity in the background. A few arrests or at least some people being ‘picked up’ for questioning cannot be ruled out, say sources.