Although the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) had been informed by March 2019 about the whereabouts of National Thowheed Jama’at (NTJ) leader, Zaharan Hashim’s brother Rilwan Hashim, Army Mohideen and Yusuf Anwar, some of the main suspects of the bombings on the 21st of April 2019, by the State Intelligence Service (SIS), the CID has failed to arrest them until the bombings took place.
This was revealed on Wednesday (22) when an official of the SIS gave evidence at the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) probing into the bombings on Easter Sunday.
He said warrants for the arrest of Zaharan, Rilwan, Mohideen and Anwar were issued in March 2017 following a clash between the NTJ and another group named Sunnat Wal Jama’at.
The witness said he was instructed by senior officials of the State Intelligence Service to keep an eye on the NTJ and several other organizations by 2017 as they had received information that those organizations were acting in an extremist manner.
He also said that two separate officers were appointed to investigate the activities of such groups, including that of Zaharan.
“From those officers, information on the whereabouts of Rilwan and Mohideen was revealed. It was reported that Rilwan was visiting his wife’s house in the Kattankudi area at night and that Mohideen was staying in a makeshift house in Pasikudah. But no information was available on Zaharan’s whereabouts,” he noted adding they informed the CID that if Rilwan and Mohideen were arrested and questioned, authorities would be able to find out where Zaharan was.
The witness further said that on 7 March 2019, a team led by Sub Inspector of Police (SI) of the CID arrived in Pasikudah to arrest Mohideen.
“Officers under me had shown the house where Mohideen was staying to the officers of the CID and they were given all the details about Rilwan. However, CID officials were able to arrest Rilwan or Mohideen that day,” said the witness.
He said Mohideen had served in the army for more than 10 years and was working as a physical instructor of the NTJ.
Additional Solicitor General (ASG) who led evidence asked the witness whether he had provided information to the CID about Anwar, for whom an arrest warrant had been issued in 2017.
In response, he said that Anwar had run a tailoring shop in the Kattankudi area in public.
Although he was in public in the Kattankudy area, the police had not taken measures to arrest him.
Testifying further he went on to say “the CID was able to arrest Mohideen on 24th April 2019 in the Ottamawadi area.
Members of the PCoI paid special attention to the fact that the CID was unable to arrest Mohideen until the bombings, even though information on his whereabouts had been provided in March 2019.
When members of the PCoI also asked the witness if SIS officers had the ability to arrest suspects, the witness said that the normal function of the SIS was only to provide intelligence information.
However, he added that after the bombings, a second attack could have been prevented by cooperating with other security forces going beyond the SIS’s normal functions.
Meanwhile, the ASG asked him if they had been able to uncover any prior information regarding the bombings on 21 April.
In response, he said that on 5 April, 2019, a senior official of the SIS called and informed him that the NTJ could launch an attack.
“Also, on 20th April, between 8 and 9 p.m., the same officer telephoned to inform me that the NTJ was getting ready to launch an attack.”, said the witness.
“He informed me that Zaharan and his group had bought two motorcycles, one of which had exploded on 16th April 2019. I was then instructed to find out the whereabouts of the other motorcycle,” he added.
He also said that due to a statement made by Mohideen at the time of his arrest, he felt that there was some connection between Mohideen and the Police Sergeant Nandalal who was among the CID team that went to arrest him.