Testifying before the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) probing Easter attacks, ex-DIG Nalaka Silva said the Terrorist Investigation Division (TID) monitoring terrorist Zaharan’s activities daily noticed, his preaching and attitudes took a sharp turn towards violent extremism following Digana attacks against Muslims in 2018 by extremist Sinhala Buddhist mobs.
The former TID Deputy Chief, accused of plotting to assassinate Sirisena, told the PSC that the TID surveillance revealed, following Digana attacks led by extremist Amith Weerasinghe last year, Zaharan’s social media presence turned prolific, all updates were based on violent extremism and his preaching revealed that he began justifying and sympathizing with ISIS terrorism.
“The TID operated directly under the purview of the IGP. Every video Zaharan uploaded was shared with the IGP and was briefed on many occasions regarding Zaharan’s turn towards violent extremism,” Nalaka added.
Nalaka Silva says he had on several occasions even recommended the proscription of the NTJ, recognizing the danger it posed.
He says the investigation and other strategic moves planned to counter Zaharan’s moves, were hindered due to his abrupt arrest in 2018. An open warrant had been obtained against Zaharan in July 2018, followed by a blue warrant. Nalaka Silva had stated his eventual plan was to obtain an INTERPOL warrant for Zaharan’s arrest in case he fled the country.
Nalaka Silva was arrested in October 2018, over alleged assassination plot against several VIPs.
The TID had been monitoring activities of Sri Lanka Thawheed Jamath organisation since 2013/2014, which in the years to come, broke up in to break away groups.
“It was a group established in Sri Lanka upon gaining inspiration from Tamil Nadu, but they were not violent extremists at their inception,” he told the PSC. He notes even the breakaway NTJ, although were radical in their preachings, were not subscribing to violent extremism at its beginning.
Among other concerns he had raised with the PSC included Facebook’s lack of response to correspondence by the TID on the subject of blocking accounts and access of the site to individuals engaged in spreading violent extremism .