Easter Sunday Terror Attack : The Warning via WhatsApp

Read the Article in Sinhala : http://sinhala.newswire.lk/2020/04/20/ebapri21/

21st April 2019, 8.27 am

“Respected Sir, good morning. They are likely to operate between 0600 hours and 1000 hours today. For your kind information, Sir”

“One of their targets is a Methodist Church, Colombo.”

Information revealed in the report of the Parliamentary Special Committee (PSC) to investigate into this series of attacks reveals that the head of State Intelligence Services (SIS) received information on a possible attack even hours before the the blasts occurred which killed 269 people and injured over 500 more.

As the country commemorates the first anniversary of the brutal attack killing worshipers and those gathered to celebrate Easter Sunday on April 21, 2019, carried out by an extreme Islamist terror group, the report by the PSC cites shortcomings of the state intelligence unit as one of the prime reasons for the inability to prevent the attacks from taking place.

This is the intelligence information received with regard to the attacks on 21st April 2019, according to the report publicized by the PSC:

  • 04th April 2019 : Director of State Intelligence Service (SIS) Mr. Nilantha Jayawardane receives the first intelligence report of a potential attack.

The SIS Director informed the Parliament Select Committee (PSC) that he received intelligence from his sources on the 04th of April 2019 via WhatsApp, but the identity of his source was not revealed to the PSC. He confirmed that he had got similar information in writing on the 05th of April, 2019. This had resulted in him calling a meeting of his officers and the information received was discussed.

  • 07th April : SIS Director shares these information with Chief of National Intelligence (CNI) Mr. Sisira Mendis
  • 08th April : SIS Director shares these information with then Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando. He advices to inform IGP Pujith Jayasundara
  •  09th April : Intelligence Coordination Meeting (ICM) met for the first time after the intelligence information was received. 

According to the SIS Director, this meeting was chaired by the then Defense Secretary and the meeting was attended by Commanders of the tri-forces and all investigative agencies. According to the PSC report, the SIS Director did not brief about the intelligence received by him to the attendees of the meeting held on 09th April, 2019 meeting.

After discussing agenda items, the Ministerial Secretary of MoD requested the SIS Director to give an update on the intelligence received. He had said: “Nilantha, what is happening?”. To this the SIS Director had said that he will send a note with details – “Sir, I am preparing a special report. I will be sending it to the IGP and the CID directly today”. And adds “I will recheck it and send”.

Army Commander Mahesh Senanayake who was present at the ICM on 09th April had stated to the PSC that no intelligence information was shared at the meeting and that the military could have taken appropriate steps to prevent attacks if intelligence was shared. The Army Commander also informed the PSC that he only found out the intelligence information after the attacks, which the PSC notes, is a serious issue.

  • Evening, 09th April – Letter sent to IGP

On 09th April, 2019 the SIS Director had sent the IGP, with copies to CNI and CID, a letter marked “TOP SECRET”, giving the details including the following – that Zahran Hashim of the National Thowheed Jamaat (NTJ) and his associates are planning to carry out a suicide attack in Sri Lanka and that they were to target some churches. It was also conveyed that the Indian High Commission in Sri Lanka was to be a target. No dates were given as to when the attack was to be carried out. It goes on to state that the modes of attack may include Suicide Attack, Weapon Attack, Knife Attack or Truck Attack. Individuals who are likely team members of the planned suicide attack include- Zahran Hashim, Ja Al Quithal, Rilwan, Saji Moulavi, Shahid, Milhan and others.

  • 10th April – Orders given to arrest Zahran Hashim

Director, TID informed the PSC that he had received intelligence information on 10th April 2019 and had instructed his officers to arrest Zahran and others. He had also informed Facebook to block Zahran’s page on the same day and received a response from Facebook on 12th April 2019 which resulted in the page being blocked on 15th April 2019.

  • April 14th to 16th – Special operations launched to arrest Zahran Hashim

TID officers had visited several areas during the period on 14th, 15th and 16th April 2019 in search of Zahran and associates.

  • April 17th –  Motorcycle Explosion in Kattankudy 

SIS Director is informed of the motorcycle explosion in Kattankudy the previous evening (16th April 2019). The incident was first reported to the local police and it was reported to the intelligence teams only after that.

  • April 18th – Zahran linked to explosion 

On 18th April 2019, SIS Director had sent a special report to the IGP and CID saying that the explosion is linked to Zahran and it is a dry run.

  • April 19th – Army Intelligence was informed

On 19th April 2019, SIS Director informed Director of Military Intelligence that “There is an incident like this. You have to act fast. Tell your people”

  • April 20th –  the SIS Director received a message via WhatsApp from his source

He sends a message to his sources on the lines of,

“Zahran Hashim of NTJ of Sri Lanka and his associates have a plan to carry out an “Itishad attack” – suicide attack – in Sri Lanka. It is further learnt that they have conducted a dry run and caused a blast with the explosive laid motorcycle at Palamunai near Kattankudy in Sri Lanka on the 16th as part of their plan”.

The response from the source was:

“It is learnt that they are likely to carry out their attack in Sri Lanka at any time on or before 21.04.2019. they have reported the selected eight places include a church and a hotel where Indians inhabiting a large number. Further details awaited” 

The SIS Director informed the PSC that he passed the message to Secretary of MoD, IGP, CNI and called them to follow up. The IGP had directed him to inform the CNI, Senior DIG – CID, Senior DIG – WP. He also claimed he informed STF during this period.

  • 21st April 2019 morning around 8.27 am; 

The SIS Director received a message that said the following:

“Respected Sir, good morning. They are likely to operate between 0600 hours and 1000 hours today. For your kind information, Sir”

“One of their targets is a Methodist Church, Colombo.” 

Director SIS had informed the IGP and Defence Secretary about the above information by 8.32 am according to the PSC report.

After that, the first bomb went off at St. Anthony’s Church, Kochchikade at 8.45 am.

 

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