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Muslim representatives say authorities ignored repeated warnings on extremists

12 June 2019 - 72   - 0

Repeated warnings conveyed to authorities over several years regarding the danger posed by Muslim extremists went unheeded, a former Governor and representatives of Muslim groups told the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) looking into the Easter Sunday terrorist attacks yesterday.


By Sandun Jayawardana

Repeated warnings conveyed to authorities over several years regarding the danger posed by Muslim extremists went unheeded, a former Governor and representatives of Muslim groups told the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) looking into the Easter Sunday terrorist attacks yesterday.

Former Western Province Governor Azath Sally, President of the All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama (ACJU) Moulavi Mohammed Rizwi, and Aboo Salih Uwais of the Federation of Kattankudy Mosques and Muslim Institutions gave evidence before the PSC yesterday.

In his evidence, Moulavi Rizwi of the ACJU revealed that he, along with other ACJU representatives and former Western Province Governor Azath Salley had met then Defence Ministry Secretary Hemasiri Fernando on January 3, 2019 and handed over a CD containing extremist speeches in Tamil made by Easter Sunday attack mastermind Zahran Hashim. He also submitted a copy of the CD to the Committee. “I was not informed of any followup action taken after the CD was handed over to the Defence Ministry Secretary,” Moulavi Rizwi stated. He added that the ACJU had been warning the authorities since 2014 about the dangers posed by Muslim extremists.

Former Western Province Azath Salley meanwhile, claimed he had been warning authorities about Muslim extremists for years, but lamented that nothing was done.   

Mr Salley noted that he publicly called for Zahran’s arrest in 2017 while participating in a television programme after members of Zahran and member of his group had held marches in the Eastern Province carrying the ISIS banner.

Mr Uwais, who represented the Federation of Kattankudy Mosques and Muslim Institutions, detailed how Zahran rose from a poor background to become the leader of a feared, violent extremist group in Kattankudy. Mr Uwais too, revealed that his federation had warned authorities on multiple occasions over Zahran’s extremist activities.

He noted that Zahran had been publicly making incendiary speeches in Kattankudy where he espoused ISIS ideology and propagating extremism years. “He made a public speech openly questioning the sovereignty of the country and declaring support for ISIS. He should have been arrested at the time, but it was not done so,” Mr Uwais stressed.

He also pointed out that a police complaint was made to the Kattankudy Police against Zahran after a violent clash between members of his group and a group of Sufi Muslims in March, 2017. Zahran’s group had used knives, swords and clubs to attack the other group during the clash, he also said. Though some members of Zahran’s group were arrested, Zahran and one of his brothers, Rilwan, managed to evade authorities until the Easter Sunday attacks nearly two years later. Zahran however, kept releasing extremist speeches over social media while he remained in hiding, he pointed out. 

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