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Sri Lankan intelligence operatives may be linked to terror group

SRI LANKAN intelligence operatives may be linked to the Islamist group that is believed to have carried out the deadly bomb blasts on Easter Sunday that killed at least 321 people and injured 500.

In a now deleted article from 2016, the Sri Lanka Mirror newspaper reported that intelligence authorities had uncovered a secret defence ministry account that was established under the regime of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

It claimed that the cash was used to fund a number of Islamist and Buddhist terror groups including Thowheed Jamath, whose splinter group is said to be responsible for Sunday’s attacks.

The article also alleged that “there is clear information to prove that Thowheed Jamath’s secretary Abdul Rasik Rafiquedeen was an army intelligence member.”

He was arrested in 2016 for inciting hatred against Buddhists after a complaint from the Bodu Bala Sena terror group, for which he later apologised.

Both organisations are among those alleged to have been paid from the same defence ministry slush fund.

According to sources an unnamed close ally of former Sri Lankan Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, who is planning to run for president, co-ordinated the Islamist and Buddhist extremist groups. 

He allegedly headed up a special security committee during the 2015 presidential elections controlled by Mr Gotabhaya which planned to seize power in a coup that failed to materialise. 

Mr Gotabhaya was charged with human rights violations in the United States at the beginning of April when he was served with papers in a Trader Joe’s car park in Pasadena, California.

The joint US-Sri Lankan citizen is accused of atrocities committed between 2005 and 2015 when thousands were disappeared, killed and tortured during a bitter civil war.

Sunday’s bomb attacks, which targeted churches and hotels frequented by Westerners, were claimed by the Islamic State terror group on Tuesday.

More than 40 people have been taken into custody so far, with the country placed under a state of emergency to try and prevent further attacks.

All of those arrested are Sri Lankan nationals and there are fears that some of the bombers may have fled the country.

Sri Lanka’s President Maithripala Sirisena promised tough action against state security services amid accusations that warnings about attacks planned on churches during Easter were ignored.

He said yesterday that changes would be made “in the next 24 hours.”

It is alleged that the information was also not passed on to Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe with relations between the two said to be strained.

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