An open warrant for the arrest of Mohamed Zaharan, the self-styled leader of the National Thowheed Jamath (NTJ) had been issued by a Colombo Magistrate back in August last year, but the wanted man had gone into hiding by then and the search for him had dissipated with the arrest of the then Terrorism Investigations Division (TID) chief DIG Nalaka Silva shortly thereafter, it has now been revealed.
The open warrant had been issued after the Police TID filed a ‘B’ report dated July 2, 2018 before the Colombo Magistrate’s Court, citing Mohamed Cassim Mohamed Zaharan by name and stating that he was using the internet to spread disaffection among communities and also, for proposed terrorist activities.
The report filed in court referred to Zaharan’s clash with Isthihadi Ahlul Sunnathul Wal Jamath (IASWJ) members in March 2017 in Kattankudy and ten persons being produced by the Kattankudy Police before the Batticaloa Courts. They were later bailed out while Zaharan had fled the area and gone into hiding.
This means that, at least since last year, the TID had been hot on the trail of Zaharan, believed to be the mastermind of the Easter Sunday multiple bombings that killed 258 people. But the trail dissipated even after an open warrant for his arrest was granted in August last year as the TID DIG was arrested in September, 2018 on charges relating to an attempt to assassinate President Maithripala Sirisena.
The TID had also asked court for Interpol to be requested to issue a “Blue notice’ – a notice that alerts police and immigration officials worldwide for additional information on the person’s identity, location or activities in relation to a crime as there was a likelihood that he could travel overseas, or was already abroad.
The “B’ report submitted to court stated that Zaharan was suspected of wanting to create divisions between communities, especially among the Sinhala and Muslim communities with the aim of causing communal violence.
It added that his name was being included in the Police Gazette as a wanted man.
In an affidavit filed by the TID investigating officer, court was informed that Zaharan was using a video to disseminate radical views that were reaching a number of youths and causing animosity even within his religious community.
The TID officer said they had been monitoring his speeches exhorting violence. His signed affidavit was dated June 29, 2018. The court order was dated August 8, 2018.
DIG Nalaka Silva was released on bail this week. He was interdicted in October, 2018.