Did Sri Lanka take Mohammad Zaharan and his National Thowheeth Jamaath lightly?

Vicky Nanjappa

New Delhi, Apr 24: The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the Colombo bombings, but the scanner of the Sri Lankan agencies will continue to remain on the
National Thowheeth Jamaath (NJT).

NJT, a radical Islamic group emerged in the year 2015. Led by Mohammad Mohammed Zaharan. He is a known radical Islamist and has been accused of preaching hate on online platforms. Having spent time both in India and Sri Lanka, he has been under the radar of the intelligence agencies of both countries.

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India had in fact on April 4 shared information with Sri Lanka about Zaharan. His mobile details, address and other information pertaining to him had been shared with Sri Lanka.

The group gained ground following the attacks on Muslims by the Buddhists. They have accused the government of not acting against the Buddhists. It was in the year 2014, when severe clashes took place between the Buddhists and Muslims that many part of the Muslim community started joining radical groups. It was believed that the only way to fight or defend themselves was by being part of these groups.

The Buddhists make up for 70 per cent of population, followed by the Muslims and Christians who are 10 and 7 per cent in number.

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While Zarahan went about his activities, it was only recently that the Sri Lankan authorities kept a closer watch on him. He had been involved in the vandalising of Buddhist statues in December last year. This was done with an intent of instigating the Muslims and Buddhists.

Indian officials say that it was only until recently that the Sri Lankan authorities began taking the NJT seriously. During one raid that was held in January, huge cache of arms, ammunition, rifles, bullets and religious propaganda had been seized. It was said that it belonged to the NJT.

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