On December 26 last year, scores of Buddhist statues in Mawanella were vandalized. A Criminal Investigation Department (CID)investigation led to the arrest of seven suspects, including one who was caught by the locals, allegedly while undertaking the act of vandalism. Suspects were accused of being members of a radical Islamic group. They were charged under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, produced before the Mawanella Magistrate and were remanded.
Interrogation of suspects led to an 80 acre-coconut cultivation in Wanathawillu in Puttalam, where CID sleuths uncovered a large cache of explosives buried in the plantation. The cache included 100kg of C4 explosives, 75 kg ammonium nitrate and potassium chloride and 6 cans of 20 litre nitrate acid, which investigators believed was meant to make Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs). Four individuals were arrested, however, the key suspects who were not in the plantation at the time, remained at large.
The arrests and seizure of explosives raised serious concerns within intelligence circles of an active network of Islamist cells. Concerns centred on a minority of Muslim fanatics who were indoctrinated by Salafi preachers and plotting attacks on followers of other faiths. At least two Muslim political bigwigs were blamed on maintaining contacts with these extremist groups, probably unaware of the evil they had been courting. One had offered to the Police to facilitate the surrender of an extremist preacher who was in hiding in return for an assurance.
In a shocking revelation, Minister Kabir Hashim has now told a media conference that one or two persons who were arrested at Wanathawillu were released due to political pressure. One of the released suspects was now being identified as Easter Sunday suicide bomber, he said.
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