17 November, 2019

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Understanding Zahran: Sri Lanka’s Ultra Terrorist

By S. I. Keethaponcalan

Dr. S. I. Keethaponcalan

On April 21, 2019, three Catholic churches and three high-end hotels in Colombo were blown up leading to the death of hundreds of people including several foreign nationals. As of today, more than 250 people have been killed. The explosions also maimed hundreds more. It was later revealed that all of the attackers were suicide bombers and they were from the Sri Lankan Muslim community, the second largest minority group in the country. 

The attacks inherently conveyed a number of messages. First, the terrorists wanted to kill as many people as possible. It was Easter Sunday. They knew that a large number of people attend mass on that day. The churches targeted were relatively small structures. For example, Saint Anthony’s Church was small in size compared to Saint Lucia’s Cathedral located in the same area. Presumably, they were looking for small structures with a large number of people to have a high impact.  

Second, the targets were “Western” in nature. According to even local perspectives, the Church and Christianity are Western inductions. They are not “local.” The high-end hotels targeted, especially the Shangri-La Hotel and Kingsbury, are frequented mostly by Western visitors and tourists, although one can find Sri Lanka’s superrich in these spots. Hence, it was an attack on the “West” undertaken in Sri Lanka. It is this factor that justifies the argument that it was an act of revenge for the Christchurch massacre of March 2019. Perhaps, Sri Lanka was considered a soft target. 

Third, the local terrorists could not have done it without the assistance of international forces. The resources and manpower needed for an attack of this magnitude could be tremendous. Local organizations were not capable of independently mounting an attack like this. It was against this backdrop an ISIS connection was suggested. Within a couple of days, ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack and celebrated the “achievement.” In Sammanthurai, where many suicide bombers were located and killed, ISIS flags and other symbols were discovered. On April 29, ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi himself acclaimed the Sri Lanka operation. Al-Baghdadi’s intervention put to rest any doubts about the ISIS connection to the Sri Lankan Easter Sunday massacre.    

Zahran Hashim 

Despite these apparent facts, many, who were directly and indirectly affected by the attack and its effects could not understand the nature of the targets and the brutality involved. Even some expert commentators claimed that they could not understand the whole tragedy. I cannot claim that I understood either. While discussing the “Muslim issue” in my recent book entitled Post-war Dilemmas of Sri Lanka: Democracy and Reconciliation, I pointed out that,

“A parallel process of radicalization has been taking place within the Muslim community, along with the process of separate ethnic identity formation. New Muslim sects and groups which preach and, at times, force the adoption of a pure form of Islam have gained prominence. Consequently, public displays of faith, including dress code, haircut, and beard, have come to symbolize Muslim existence and power in the regions where they predominantly live. The process of radicalization has also led to internal violence within the Muslim community. Some of them have joined hands with transnational terrorist organizations, for example, ISIS, to wage jihad” (p.133).  

The analysis indicated that tension and violence would escalate. I did not expect an attack of this magnitude. I wanted to understand more. I thought the best way to understand the barbarism demonstrated by attacking purely civilian targets was to understand the psyche and philosophy of Zahran Hashim, the alleged mastermind of the Easter Sunday massacre. I know he spoke Tamil, which he most likely treated as his “home-language.” Since he was often described as a “Youtuber,” I searched online for his videos. To my surprise, I could not find much. Either, social media companies have removed his videos or I was doing a wrong search.

Nevertheless, I located one video, which runs for 5.58 minutes. I was shaken by what I heard. First, I was puzzled by the question, how did we miss this? Then I was forced into a dilemma of whether to share the translation. I started to translate and transcribed intending to share with the readers. His “sermon” was extraordinarily provocative and had the potential to invite violence. Hence, I decided not to publish the entire transcript. Only relevant excerpts are used for this analysis. The reason for sharing the excerpts is that the sermon contains enough warnings. Perhaps, it will help prevent future violence.                                         

My Takeaway 

I have a number of main takeaways from Zahran Hasim’s pronouncements. 

1. He was right. In his speech, Zahran promised that we would be busy picking up blown up bodies. He claimed, “You will only have time to pick up your blown-up bodies. We will continue to send you to hell in large numbers.” That came true on Easter Sunday. He was not bluffing. Therefore, we should take his other assertions seriously and treat them as early warnings. This could prevent further attacks and bloodshed. We should research his other sermons and publications, if any, to develop our understanding of the philosophy and plan.

 2. Civilian targets are fair game. Some of my friends were at a loss to understand the reason why civilians were targeted. According to Zahran’s interpretation of Islam and Quran, there is no difference between civilian and military targets. He said, “my brothers, do not distinguish between army, police or general kafir (infidel). They all are the same. In Islam, there are no separate laws for those who wear police uniform or military uniform. The only difference in Islam is between Muslims and kafir. You must know that the markkam (Islam) does not distinguish between military and civilians.” Therefore, from the perspective of the terrorists, non-Muslim civilian targets are entirely legitimate. If Zahran’s followers are still active, we should expect more attacks on non-Muslim civilian targets. 

3. It was against the Buddhists. Originally, Zaran’s fight was not against Christians. This is what he had to say about his jihad (holy war) against the Buddhists, 

“Meanwhile, we wish to say a few things to Allah’s enemies and infidels. Infidels and enemies of Allah, your destruction has started. We have counted every mosque you have destroyed, and we remember every shop you scorched. Blood of Muslims you have killed will not be wasted. Inshallah, we will avenge this. You will feel the pain of jihad, the scale of jihad, and the weight of jihad. You will see the agonizing cry of every Buddhist…We will certainly destroy those who destroyed our mosques. Even then, our knives will not be satisfied. Buddhist extremists, we will certainly come for you. We tell the Buddhist kafir who destroyed our temples and who torched our properties that we will come for you. Your police, your military and your intelligence (services) will be useless in front of Imani strength of the mujahideen.” 

Perhaps, this video was made before he became a member of ISIS. Becoming a member of ISIS forced him to turn his guns against Christians and Westerners. However, there is no reason to believe that Buddhism in Sri Lanka is not a target any more. Some of the media reports connected to discoveries from terrorist hideout could also confirm this possibility. Buddhist locations, especially Buddhist places of worship should be monitored and protected, in addition to Christian churches and Hindu temples.

4. The promise of jihad. Zahran promised to wage war in Sri Lanka. He thundered, “Inshallah, soon, we will open the market of jihad in this country. You will not only hear but see the sights of thousands of our suicide bombers destroying you with a smile on their faces. Because it is the path our liberator promised….” Perhaps, it is already here, and thousands of suicide bombers are waiting with a smile on their faces. We do not know. I do not see why this cannot be the case. His promise of suicide massacre came true. 

5. Anti-Muslim violence. It is clear that the anti-Muslim riots unleashed after the end of the civil war have contributed immensely to Zahran’s anger and mobilization. He said, “if they damage your mosques, destroy their vihara. If you are killed in this journey, you will definitely be a shaheed (martyr). Based on the evidence provided by the markkam, I am telling you that this is your duty. According to (Muslim) legal scholars, there is no bigger vagib (duty) than stopping the kafir…” The recent anti-Muslim violence could have also helped radicalize and mobilize other Muslims as well. Therefore, concerned parties have a responsibility to bring under control the anti-Muslim rhetoric and violence.

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Latest comments

  • 2
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    In Kochikadai Anthoniyar’s Church, Tamil Pooja time was selected. In, Negombo the terrorist was confused by name similarity; though he was sent to the more Tamils attending Church, but erroneously he walked into the wrong Church. Demadagoda is the New Wellawatte; that try fizzled. In Batticola he went to the correct Church, but the Bishop had ended the Pooja so he looked for an alternate. Instead reviewing the actual facts, why is this guy building a conspiracy theory based on his anonymous intangible evidences? It seem only Rajitha can explain that part.
    Is this guy a partner of Thiruvarangan? Like this guy transcribing a Tamil clip, this time Thiruvarangan translated to Tamil an English essay written by another Tamil woman about the News & Phots appeared in Tamil Uthayan. The English essay blamed when Rapist Army was searching the Jaffna Mosque, Tamil Uthayan had taken photos of the illegal tea trade the Mosque has carried inside the premise. The Tamil woman and Thiruvarangan are blaming that Uthayan Newspaper anti Muslim set up that is why they took photos and writing about Jaffna Mosque. Thiruvarangan never wrote an essay on Rapist Army infringing copy rights & published a second Uthayan to defeat Ananthi or shooting of Uthayan Editor and reporters or Uthayan Building raid by EPDP or Deva’s law suit on Uthayan. Thiruvarangan too, is an equal opportunity, balanced reporting –fake $350 even cooking guaranteed – Zojirushi Rice Cooker. But who needs these? Who needs these analyses? Aren’t we happy with the simple news, $5 Aluminum pan, which gives the same doneness?
    Why would somebody spend their time to save Aanduwa to load the responsibility of mastermind of this on Zahren Cassim?

    • 1
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      Rajitha even said Rajapaksa government trained Boko Haram only to be given an earful by the Nigerian government

      • 3
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        Dr. S. I. Keethaponcalan

        If one deeply analyzed this article written by you, all it says is to take that terrorist ZAHRAN serious to Sinhalese.

        Since the bomb attacks, Tamil diaspora have changed their tactics and started to create more fear among Sinhalese showing ISIS.

        I don’t think it is a difficult task for Sri Lankans to defeat these few terrorists when they have shown defeating a ruthless terror organization of SL Tamils that managed to infiltrate into 99.9% of Tamil minds with separatism ideology, and still propagate into newer generations.

        I think it is time Sinhalese and Muslims should work together to eliminate this IS menace and stand united, if not incurable ideology born after independence will WIN easily.

        Idroos

    • 2
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      @ Mallaiyuran
      If your argument is correct that the terrorists who did this were targeting the tamil population, how would you explain these same terrorists’ action in targeting the 5-star hotels?

      • 0
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        Native Sududa,

        The questions are for Aanduwa; don’t kill the messenger.

        If you want me to guess what is the order of Aanduwa’s priorities then: “First take care of Demelo Pariahs, then the lurking Western Spies. We don’t want CIA and Mossad and MI6 are cell-ing in our hotels in the name of tourism.” (If you are not happy with the answer pick up the phone and ask senior partners Wimal or Hezbollah or Ranil………. for better selection sequence)

  • 1
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    What Keerthigoplana has written is typical Western Propaganda published in western media. CNN first clamed that ISIS did it. How did they know it precisely. Some time ago, One Jayawardane and thambiah had written a book disparaging a buddhism. Many European bhikkus know the truth. Recently, the norm is writing about ASIA’s military buddhism and Terrorist monks. So, in that sense, Keerthigopalan write any book. There is another no that well known or not main stream media which talks some thing else. former NATO chairman, a retired US General says, ISIS, Sunni, is Israel’s creation to confront shiite-HAMAS. USA and NATO was employing the philosophy that any one Would not go with the Global Economy has to be destroyed. So, culture, finances, social values are to be destroyed. Right now what we have in moderation is what is found in Venezuela. Venezula problems began when George Bush Junior was the president. So, Chavez was killed and now Maduro is in trouble. He is still there because Russian planes are parked there. I read they also expect Terrorism. Ranil is from one side. Mangala is from another side, they all do the same. Previously they have talked to many Sri lankan politicians. so, everybody thinks I am or we are better after this, they lose. Sri lanka is a spiritual country. so, the final outcome is not theirs. What I wrote is all in the public domain in the web.

  • 0
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    Sri lanka knows how active and how influential the INTERNATIONAL community in governing Sri lanka. Maithripala Sirisena was a unwilling partner and he allowed Ranil, Mangala, Penthouse Ravi etc., to dnce the way they want. Why some one wants to enrol a msulim that the govt used as an intelligence agent, particularly in terrorist activities. Now, Ranil wants to share the Intelligence people with the foreign intelligence. What are they going to do produce DOUBLE – AGENTS. It IS CT THAT SAID THAT THE CHINESE OWNED SHANGRI LA HOTEL IS HIGHLY WIRED.
    https://www.voltairenet.org/article206359.html – THIS ARTICLE SAYS now AL Qaeda and DAESH (ISIS) are one and the same and they operate from Sri lanka too. In other words, Sri lanka is going to be a ISIS base. NATO is giving troubles even to europe and Britain, I think. Because a terrorist attack and anti-muslim sentiments build the DAESH base.

  • 1
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    The Finance co who had charged large sum of money for legal services to transfer the deeds from a Muslim couple for lands purchased by them for which not only the company made profit also earned interest on the instalments refused to fill two simple forms to change the name at the local council ownership (which is also part of duty for payments charged ), because the lawyer who had handle the transfer has left the company and they wanted the couple to go to land register and prove their ownership ,Even though they had legal registered deeds ,evidence of full payments and they also refused to look at their documents .when the couple approached the
    SLHRC officer FOR ADVICE ,HE told them that is the law and the Client must go to the land register and get the extracts and prove the ownership and generally The SLHRC claims if any private organization causes discrimination they can not help the victim must hire their own lawyers and file case ,what if the victim.can not afford It? Can private organization get away with such actions ?

    Can someone from the legal fraternity advice on the Finance company’s action ?
    Thank you
    Guess discrimination and harassment is happening at certain levels and I don’t believe it should happen in a PLC ??
    Can HE The President offer any consolation ?

  • 0
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    It is clear that there are many who are radicalized in so may ways. Mother of the Bali bomber justified the action of her son by saying “He killed infidels” when the executed body was brought back for burial. It is radicalization that makes on to say that this land belongs to us or saying that we are the oldest residents in the country and this is evident in some of the comments stated here. In the world over where religious hatred is being sown through violence, two acts standout, namely the Christchurch attack in New Zealand and the attacks in Sri Lanka. The world must respect two leaders who managed the aftermath of these attacks one being Rt. Hon. Ms. Arden, the Prime Minister of the country and His Eminence Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith, the Archbishop of Colombo. Any one does have the freedom of thought and expression but at a critical stage we should act responsibly as citizens of this country, if we claim to be its citizens and enjoy all such privileges associated with it. Therefore all kinds of expressions, even in the form of analyses, that aggravate the situation must be avoided. Dealing with the present, it is inconceivable to think how a large amount of arms and explosives came into the country without being noticed. How? It is reported that the Army Chief of the country attributes the reason for this carnage as “Too much freedom and Too much peace”. That speaks volumes. Yes! In order to enjoy all that all warning signs were conveniently shelved. I am reminded of a biblical saying “None are so blind than those who will not see”. We started seeing only after the explosions. But yet again some prefer not to see.

  • 6
    6

    We need the system of eradication using Tires once again. During JVP times, even the sight of a Rubber Tire would send shivers along the spines of the terrorists. It is needed now too.

    Also the economy of the terrorists must be destroyed. Recently, during a raid the Army had found 2.5 Million rupees in the possession of the terrorists. That is a lot. The Sinhalese soldiers must help themselves to that loot. During our days, I used to help myself to anything in sight. Cash, gold bangles, gold chains, even gold teeth.

    Also, D. Defense Minister Ruwan Wijewardena has clearly stated that all properties belonging to the ISIS terrorists will be confiscated. That is a good decision. Use that wealth to develop the North and help Tamil people who have been affected by the war. But don’t allow terrorists to keep their wealth. Start with No-Limit, Abdul Rahims, all the currency exchange stores in Wellawatta, the crooked Muslim lawyers at Hultsdorp etc.

  • 6
    5

    Mr. S. I. Keetponcalan –you are dead right (no pun intended) on your analysis – and your prior predictions.

    To all the ‘modaya’s on this forum, let me draw a picture for you. You uninformed, uneducated,
    unenlightened, naïve, unknowledgeable illiterate morons – Listen up.:

    The young professor is being kind, putting it to you – in gentle, palatable terms why you ‘anal sphincters’ are in deep trouble.

    The Muslims are not going to run to UNHCR like the Tamils asking for justice for tens of thousands killed by the armed forces during the last stages of the war.

    While you dumb, foolish, unintelligent, brainless imbeciles were celebrating the Ranawiru, the Muslims figured out a way to protect themselves and their community when BBS, Gnanasara and like-minded robe-clad thugs were propagating hatred, spear-headed attacks on mosques and Muslim owned businesses.

    Open your eyes you knuckleheads, the initial attack was carried out by a family who are multimillionaires. The leaders highly educated, – decided the only way to stop Government sponsored terrorism against their community is to take matters to their own hands.
    History tells us that the Government did nothing to protect the minority in a multi-ethnic, multi-racial multi-religious Sri Lanka.
    1958, 1972, 1977 and 1983 are stark reminders to the Tamil minority who were slaughtered and driven scrambling to safer heavens abroad to countries that gave them sanctuary.

    After the war, you jackasses were celebrating the formation of the Sinhala Buddhist nation.
    Then you scumbags made the fatal error of touching the Muslims.

    Believe me, they are not going to run to the UNHRC!

    Listen to Zaran Hashims last video message to you who pride yourselves claiming you are descendants of the Lion.

    Sri Lanka- more like a land of donkeys!!

    (With my sincere apology to the Donkey)

    • 6
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      Ugly American,
      .
      “The Muslims are not going to run to UNHCR like the Tamils asking for justice for tens of thousands killed by the armed forces during the last stages of the war”
      .
      Why Tamils didn’t go to UNHRC for 83 pogram where between 3000 to 4000 Tamils are believed to have been killed, and many Tamils say it was govt sponsored? Because you believed in strengthening a terror group, LTTE to take revenge on Sinhalese and to grab a piece of the country using your terrorist group.
      .
      When LTTE was defeated by the forces, that is the time you remembered there is something called UNHCR. Until such time you were partners of crimes against humanity.
      .
      God forbid, say LTTE defeated the govt forces with still the same number of Tamils killed, would you ever think of going to UNHCR?

      • 4
        5

        Ugly American,

        So with 6 bombs what did the Muslims achieve?

        Eradicate the entire Sinhalese population or gurantee their own safety?

        How safe are the Muslims now than they were before April 22nd?

        As we know, the Army is all over the Muslims. And wait for the next bomb blast to target a few Army soldiers untill all hell breaks loose.

        Your calling others knuckleheads is utterly laughable when you say the Muslims blasted the bombs to bring safety to their community.

        That surely qualifies as one of the most ludicrous statements of CT ever to be published.

  • 4
    0

    There is NO JUSTIFICATION for suicide bombing civilians. Rioting is also unacceptable – state-sponsored ones are worse.

    Yet, 2 wrongs do NOT make a right.

    We cannot AFFORD to alienate the non-militant muslims. We need them to find out about the vulnerable among them who are susceptible to militant islamism. They are the canaries in the cold mine, that can help us identify, isolate and hopefully rehabilitate youth who are being misled by militant islam. Banning hijab and confisticating swords is NOT enough, nor is it what is needed in the long term.

    We need to ban online material that is meant to militarize people (not just muslims, but all people including buddhists and Tamils), hate speech, and monitor social media for false and misleading information. China might provide us with a model – even though it would not be popular.

    • 5
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      sinhalese buddhist,

      You’re right. CIA, RAW, MOSSAD or any international forces have never helped eradicate Islamic extremists’ terrorism anywhere in the world but, has put more fuel into crisis to make it more powerful to gain anything out of it.

      SL govt with its proven forces who defeated worse terrorists in the world, working with right-thinking Muslims who are easily more than 99% at this time to eradicate few IS converted terrorists among them is the way to get out of it.

      The reason LTTE grew that powerful was that more than 99% Tamils supporting the group, because the separatism ideology convinced thier minds, and still convincing as we can see. Here, the Islamic extremism ideology is not that powerful which can convince or infiltrate into the minds of right-thinking minds of 99% of Muslims. That is the advantage the Govt has in this fight.

  • 0
    2

    Champa, It is foolish on my part to respond to your BS. So where the hell you guys have from? From heaven? Come on man you guys, your very chronicle, history, etc. claims you guys came from India too. Lion kathawa, though there had never been lions in India, is a good story for your race’s start. Who is the great Vijaya, who came to SL and betrayed and killed the local Naga queen Kuveni? Where di Buddhsim come from? Where did your language come from? Where did your culture come from? Where did your festivals, deiyos and rituals come from? Saivam and Thamil are the most ancient religion and language and it predayes all the other religions in India including pali, prakrit or sanskrit. Accross Palk starit was Thamil Nadu where Thamil language and Saivam flourished and what is the problem for them to be part of Illankai. You try to equate Buddhism with Sinhala and that is your modakama and cunningness! It is not true man. It is your present majoritarian distortion of truth. Buddhsim came in moved towards the south too and got stuck there while the areas towards India reverted back to Saivam. But Champa please dont get confused with Sinhala race and Buddhism. Part of Sinhalas are nagas and yakshas who are of south indian (dravidian) origin and lineage. Silapathiharam, manimekalai are part of Sangam tamil litterature and they are pro-Buddhist literature written by Thamils in Thamil. The writers were Buddhists converts at that time. You guy by repeating lies have now become fully confused. Sinhalas are Thamils, Malayalis, Nagas and Yakshas and no miraculous origin from nothing. Hope they put you into Ravana 2 sattelite and send you into an endless orbit.

    • 2
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      Nathan
      Don’t talk rubbish. Talk to the point.
      I already replied to you comment.
      I have said this many times. Tamils under Prabharakan era tried to change our history in vain.
      Where did I lie in my comment? Quote and show me.
      Tamil is not even an Indian language. How about Elamite language spoken in some parts of Iran? From where did you get the word Eelam?

  • 1
    2

    [Now Sinhalese should find a way to protect THEIR COUNTRY from extremist minorities.]

    Yes Moda Champa. They have to save themselves from morons like Champa if the race have to survive. Concocted history and bogus rhetoric will push them back some more. I am sure this clown must be hiding in some other country and thus his great patriotism.

    How your amu puak, mal vattiya with lotus flower, aappa, cloth and jacket, kathakali dance and kandyan dance…come on moda Champa where do you think it came from. All from Malabar. Sinhala “kane mail” came from malabar. Do you know why do you celebrate Aluth Avurudhu? Tell me a single original thing you have except of course telling historic lies. Why did your kings wanted Thamil soldiers and Thamil wives, because they could not trust others.

    I dont deny LTTE committed crimes against humanity but what created them, only Sinhala extremism and violence. On the other hand Islamic extremism is something global and not local and hence it is going to be very challenging. Your wife and daughters too may not be able to go to ME in future for jobs and thus your Dubai duty free red label and black and white and dunhill. Future does not look good at all. We may go back to Kasyappa’s era?

    • 3
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      Nathan
      I meant it.
      Sinhalese have to protect their country from minority terrorists.
      Your comment shows your frustration.

  • 0
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    All information of this group was informed to the corrective authoritative form 2015, no action. Ignore signaling , is something will happen the direction is Pinching the baby and rocking the cradle,

  • 1
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    Champa, we have to first protect SL from morons and liars like you who thrive on fantasy and not on facts. If you can why don’t you go in and read in depth the history of our region. Read about languages, races, religions and their evolution. Moda Chompa VP is only a hero for you and not for me. At least he gave you an opportunity to run away from a SL and seek refuge. It is patent that you are totally clueless except listening to some gossip from the pavement. Seeking knowledge and truth appears too far fetched for you. So confine to your level of discussion. You are not in anyway contributing anything to SL or the Sinhala people. Don’t insult them

  • 4
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    No one should be surprised. It was waiting to happen after 70 years of Brutality. GOSl over the period and the Majorty who are overtly Racist provided the Fertile Ground. There is more to come

  • 0
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    [edited out]
    Why should muslims go to UNHCR when they know they are being man handled by the west. Human do stupid things. So, here they have used some draw back of the religion and exploit it.

  • 1
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    Dr. S. I. Keethaponcalan

    “In Sammanthurai, where many suicide bombers were located and killed, ISIS flags and other symbols were discovered. “

    You have got it WRONG Dr. S.I.K. Not a SINGLE suicide bomber was found in Sammanthurai. They are mostly from Kattankudy. Some of them moved to Sainthamaruthu a few days before the Terror attack in Colombo and Batticaloa and killed themselves when they were trapped by the STF and Army.

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