The attacks on the Easter Sunday were not carried out by the National Thowheed Jamath (NTJ), but a splinter group, says State Minister of Defence Ruwan Wijewardena.
Speaking in a media briefing for the foreign correspondents today (24), the State Minister stated that there are two groups; the National Thowheed Jamath and a splinter group of the main body. He said the attacks were carried out by the splinter group.
Responding to a question raised by a foreign media person as to the whereabouts of Zahran Hashmi, who is described in reports as the NTJ’s leader, the State Minister stated that, according to the information gathered by the intelligence, it is the leader of this splinter group that had committed suicide in one the attacks.
Investigations are being carried out to apprehend other persons involved in the attacks as this operation was not limited to the suicide bombers, the State Minister said.
Both the NTJ and its splinter group have extremist views, however, at some point they had split due to internal misunderstandings, he said. There have been links between the two groups in this operation, the State Minister added.
Further speaking, he said the suicide bomber at the Shangri-La hotel is not the son of businessman and spice trader Mohammed Yusuf Ibrahim, however, he emphasized that he is restricted in giving out details with regard to the identities of the attackers until investigations are concluded.
The State Minister said investigations are underway to identify the direct links that the attacks had to any international organizations and if the Islamic State is steering funding for the group.
Some of these suicide bombers are well-educated and come from the middle or upper-middle class, the State Minister said. Their families are financially stable, he added.
“We believe that one of the suicide bombers studied in the UK and later did a postgraduate in Australia before coming back to settle in Sri Lanka,” he commented.
According to an assessment done by the intelligence, the bombings on Easter Sunday were motivated by the Christchurch massacre, he added.
“This group has defaced Buddhist statues and attacked some temples and a church as well, but not to this magnitude,” the State Minister said. The authorities believe that for the attackers to take this kind of action, they were motivated by the Christchurch shooting.
He further said two safe houses of the attackers have been uncovered; one in Negombo and another one in Panadura.
“Our intelligence had been briefed about the possible attacks. Certain officials had been notified about the possible attacks. Due to some lapses in security arrangements most of the officials not notified, including me,” State Minister Wijewardena said.