ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday June 08, 2008
Vol. 42 - No 54

Railway bomb suspect was a quiet neighbour who kept odd hours

By Asif Fuard

The main suspect in Wednesday’s Dehiwala train bomb attack, Jatheesan Balasubramaniyam, 29, struck his neighbours and co-workers as being just another “harmless” average citizen.

Balasubramaniyam was arrested in Vavuniya, after arousing the suspicions of a female home guard at the Irattaperiyakulam check-point in Vavuniya. He was on his way to the LTTE-controlled Wanni.

For the past 18 months, the suspect, a resident of Mullaithivu, had been working as an engineer for a Rajagiriya-based trading company dealing in air-conditioners. He had been married for six months, and had been a Wattala resident over the past three years.

The Wattala house where the suspect in the Wellawatte train bomb blast lived. The suspect occupied the upper floor, first with a group of friends, and then with his newly-wed wife.

In the first one-and-a-half years he occupied a rented house owned by a teacher. He later moved out and joined five other Tamil persons from Kandy who occupied a three-room flat on the upper floor of a two storeyed house.

Neighbours described Balasubramaniyam as quiet and as someone who kept to himself. He would buy his groceries from his landlord, P. P. Marcus, who had a shop on the ground floor.

“He would leave for work on his motorbike at 6.30 in the morning and return about 7 in the evening,” Mr. Marcus told The Sunday Times. “He would buy his groceries from my shop. He didn’t talk much."

In February this year, the five persons from Kandy handed over the flat to the suspect. A few weeks later the suspect got married to a Vavuniya resident, and brought his bride to live with him in the flat.

Mr. Marcus told the Wattala Police that, after his marriage, the suspect would return home at strange hours of the night.“When I asked him once why was he getting late, he said it was because of work,” Mr. Marcus said.

Police investigations have revealed that on the eve of the May 26 Dehiwala train bombing, four persons had called on Balasubramaniyam around 11 pm and left after midnight. It was later found that one of the four persons had provided the suspect with the explosives used for last Wednesday’s train bombing.

In a reconstruction of events surrounding the bomb blast, it was found that on Wednesday the suspect left his apartment at 5.45am and arrived at Dehiwala at about 6.30am. He was wearing a white shirt and black slacks, and carrying two bags. He parked his motorbike in a seaside lane and proceeded to walk along the railtracks towards Wellawatte.

The Rajagiriya office where the suspect worked as an engineer

His target was a packed train, carrying some 1,500 passengers, that left the Panadura train station at 6. 45am. He dropped one of the bags he was carrying on the rail track near Ebenezer Place and walked away. At 7.15am, he detonated the bomb, using a remote controlled device.

According to eyewitnesses, the suspect then ran up the lane. Residents of Ebenezer Place gave chase. One person grabbed the suspect for a few moments. The suspect dropped the second bag he was carrying, ran along the Galle Road and hopped on to a bus heading towards Panadura.

Fathima Rafeeka, who owns a shop near the spot where the train blast occurred, told The Sunday Times that she noticed a man walking back and forth on the railtrack when she opened her shop that morning.

“He was acting in a very suspicious way and looking furtively in my direction. I was about to call the police emergency hotline when I heard a loud explosion,” she said.

Dr. Wilfred Kumarasinghe, director for the Kalubowila Teaching Hospital, told The Sunday Times that 27 persons injured in the train blast were admitted to the hospital on Wednesday, and by Thursday 13 of them had been discharged.

The bag left behind by the suspect was found to contain his passport, work-related documents and a walkie-talkie that, according to the police, was tuned to a frequency used by the LTTE.

On Wednesday night, the suspect got off a bus at Medawachchiya and boarded a bus to Vavuniya, where a female guard at the Irretaperi-yakulam check-point alerted the officer in charge at the Irretaperiyakulam Police Station, who then took the suspect into custody.

According to the police, the suspect had made a statement to the Vavuniya police in which he confessed to carrying out the bomb attack. The suspect had stated that a person living in Modera had given him the bomb, with instructions on what to do with it.

On Thursday three other suspects were arrested in connection with Wednesday’s bombing. Following information given by one of the suspects, members of the Special Task Force and the Wellawatta Police recovered 3kg of C-4 high explosives, five electrical detonators and a mini-pistol with ammunition during a search operation conducted in the Wellawatta area.

Sources in the Government Analysts’ Department told The Sunday Times that the train bomb was found to have contained C-4 type explosives packed with ball bearings.

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