The terrorist attacks on the 21st of April are not a failure of intelligence, but a failure of leadership, says Dr Rohan Gunaratna, Professor of Security Studies at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technology University, Singapore.
Prof Gunaratna made these comments addressing an international symposium organized by the Mahinda Rajapaksa Center under the theme “The Global Expansion of ISIS: Impact on Sri Lanka”. The event was held in Colombo.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, Leader of Opposition Mahinda Rajapaksa, Speaker of Parliament Karu Jayasuriya and many other political leaders joined the event.
Further commenting he said, Sri Lanka has one of the most capable military, law enforcement and intelligence services in the world. “But during that period, we had two major problems in this country. The leadership was divided. There was no visionary leadership,” he continued.
The Sri Lankan security and intelligence services are not to be blamed for these attacks, Prof Gunaratna emphasized.
“Very rarely any country will receive such precise intelligence,” he says. The forewarning mentioned Zahran Hashim and it had precisely stated that the targets were going to be churches, Prof Gunaratna said.
It is true that the DIG in charge of the MSD (Ministerial Security Division) informed 225 principle staff officers, they informed the diplomatic core and the judges, former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s security detail, but they did not inform the churches,” Prof Gunaratna alleges.
“So, I want you to know that it is a failure of intelligence, but a failure of leadership,” he noted.
Speaking on the IS networks in Sri Lanka, Prof Gunaratna stated that there were three IS networks in the country; Kandy-centred Central Province network, the Eastern network that was led by Zahran Hashim and the Western Province network. The latter two were recruited later, he said.
The network in the Western Province was called the JMI and there had been a dispute among the members, Prof Gunaratna commented further.
“Those who were supporting the Al-Qaeda including its leader, a man called Umayar, stated that this is not the right time for jihad when they wanted to attack the churches and hotels,” he continued.
However, there had been two others, Ilham and Jamil, who broke away from this organization and joined Zahran. “Then they created the IS network in Sri Lanka,” he added.
“Zahran Hashim takes a pledge of allegiance to the IS leader Abu Bakar Ai Baghdadi. He has an ideology where they believe in 5 things; one is that they will go to heaven and the second is to have an audience with God. The third is that they will be forgiven for their sins and vices. The fourth is that you can take seventy relatives to heaven. That is why some of their relatives supported the attacks while some others committed suicide. The fifth is that you can have 72 beautiful girls,” Prof Gunaratna stated.