Clerics on tourist visas propagated extremism among Muslim youth: Police

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Investigations carried out by Police over the Easter Sunday attacks had revealed that certain persons on tourist visas pretending to be clerics, had propagated radicalised extremist ideology among innocent Muslim youth in rural areas, DIG (Traffic) Ajith Rohana said at a media briefing yesterday.

He said one suspect among those arrested shared the same ideology that was carried out by the international terrorist organisation ISIS.

Discussions were also held with the Controller of Immigration and Emigration to find out why these Islamic clerics used to visit the country on tourist visas.

Altogether, eighty per cent of the investigations relating to the Easter Sunday attack had been completed within ten months of the incident and the balance investigations remain to be completed, Ajith Rohana said.

“The remaining twenty per cent consists of investigations related to the conversations carried out by the suspect in cyberspace via social media,” he said.

“The Criminal Investigations Department is carrying out eight investigations regarding the eight places targeted by the terrorists. The Terrorist Investigations Division (TID) is undertaking three separate investigations regarding three places and in addition, the Colombo Crime Division (CCD) is also carrying out investigations,” he said.

Nearly 150 people who had overstayed their visas had been arrested during a special operation carried out last month by the Police, the DIG revealed.

There the Police had identified that most of the persons who overstayed had arrived from countries like India and Pakistan.

Following special investigations, it was revealed that the arrested suspects had contributed directly or indirectly in spreading extremism and radical ideology which resulted in the Easter Sunday attack.

In relation to the Easter attack investigations, nearly 600 statements had been recorded. INTERPOL, the US Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI-US) and Australian Federal Police are providing special support in the conduct of these investigations. The investigations were being carried out by 12 police investigation teams operating under a superintendent of Police or assistant superintendent of Police.

“A total of 216 suspects including seven women connected to the Easter Sunday attacks had been arrested. At present, there are 153 suspects detained under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) and being questioned.

“These suspects include six Sri Lankans who were brought to the country from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) through INTERPOL”, Police revealed.