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Sunday 26 January 2020

‘Tamil Nadu Thowheeth Jamaath inspired Sri Lanka bombing’

Colombo: A Sri Lankan Buddhist radical monk has claimed that a Tamil Nadu-based Islamic organisation had inspired the local Islamist extremist group NTJ for carrying out the country’s worst terror attack on Easter Sunday.

Earlier this month, the Sri Lankan Army chief had said that some of the suicide bombers visited Kashmir and Kerala for “some sorts of training” or to “make some more links” with other foreign outfits.

Nine suicide bombers carried out a series of devastating blasts that tore through three churches and as many luxury hotels on 21 April, killing nearly 260 people and injuring 500 others.

Buddhist monk Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara Thero, speaking to reporters on Friday, said that two Tamil Nadu Thowheeth Jamaath (TNTJ) men, Ayub and Abdeen, visited Sri Lanka. “They met one Abdul Razik here. The idea was to provoke Buddhists to attack Muslims. They spread stories derogatory of the Buddha,” he said.

The Buddhist monk was addressing the media for the first time since President Maithripala Sirisena ordered his release using a presidential pardon. He had been sentenced to six-year imprisonment for contempt of court in August last year. Due to Sirisena’s pardon, he was released from the jail after spending nine months behind bars.

“The TNTJ created Sri Lanka Thowheeth Jamaath (SLTJ) and later All Ceylon Thowheeth Jamaath. The SLTJ was later split under nine separate leaders,” Gnanasara said. He added that despite the arrest of almost everyone connected to the NTJ, another key figure Abdul Razik is still at large. “This Razik is misleading the security forces. We will locate him soon,” he said.

The TNTJ, in a statement issued last month, denied any links with the NTJ and said that both the TNTJ and the SLTJ have been involved in social service and have been campaigning against terrorist organisations.

Gnanasara became notorious for his anti-Muslim stance. In 2013, he was blamed for leading a major anti-Muslim riot in the Muslim-dominated town of Aluthgama in the Western Province.

Since the Easter Sunday attacks, Gnanasara’s prophecy on rising Muslim militancy gained credibility. He had publicly claimed many years ago that the NTJ was grouping for terror attacks. He was sent to jail for the contempt of court. His 19-year term was commuted to a 6-year concurrent sentence.

Sirisena’s decision to release the monk triggered widespread criticism by religious minority and rights groups.

Sri Lanka has banned the NTJ and arrested over 100 people in connection with the bombings.

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