By Saman Indrajith
Easter Sunday carnage mastermind Zahran Hashim’s aide Army Mohideen had been an army informant, Parliament Select committee probing the Easter Sunday carnage was told yesterday. Former OIC of Kattankudy police station Chief Inspector Ariyabandu Welagedera told the PSC that Army Mohideen had maintained links with the army and was known as an informant of the army.
Testifying before the PSC, CI Welagedara said that there were several rival Muslim religious groups in the Kattankudy area. There was an ideological conflict. The majority of them were traditional Muslim religious groups. There had emerged a new radical group led by Zahran Hashim.
PSC members present yesterday were Minister Dr Rajitha Senaratne, Minister Ravi Karunanayke, Dr. Nalinda Jayatissa, Prof. Ashu Marasinghe, Dr. Jayampathi Wickremeratne, Ananda Kumarasiri, Rauff Hakeem, M.A. Sumanthiran and Field Marshall Sarath Fonseka.
Dr Senaratne: During your time as the OIC Kattankudy police, Zahran held a meeting at a school and there he promoted IS ideology and fundamentalism. The principal complained of this to the police. Is that right?
CI Welagedara: Yes
Dr Senaratne: So, a wave of extremism and violence was visible. Did you report those incidents and possibilities to your superiors?
CI Welagedara: We have not reported of such a wave of extremism. There was a clash between two religious groups. One of the groups was Zahran’s. I went to the scene and dispersed the mobs. There were around 100-150 involved in the clash. We made arrests on the same day and the following day. Zahran was there. Some escaped. Among those who escaped were Zahran, his brother Rilwan and Army Mohideen. We produced nine others before courts. Since then Zahran had not been sighted in the area.
MP Sumanthiran: This PSC was told that Zahran’s group had obtained a permit for loudspeakers, which Zahran and others used them to preach his extreme ideology and condemn other religious groups. It was also said that this continued while police did nothing.
CI Welagedara: As far as I recall there were 54 mosques. There were ideological differences. They obtain permits citing reasons such as anti-narcotic campaigns. I stopped several such meetings and they moved the courts, which ordered me to allow them to conduct anti-narcotics campaigns.
Minister Ravi Karunanayake: There are reports that leaders of other religious groups continued to complain against Zahran but the police did nothing.
CI Welagedara: Police knew about Zahran. But there were no reports of terrorist activities. This was just like tsunami tragedy. We knew of the danger only after disaster struck.
Ashu Marasinghe: There is an allegation that police favoured Zahran’s group. Is that true?
CI Welagedara: No sir, there was no such favouration. I reject that allegation.
Dr Wickremaratne: Was there any difficulty in enforcing law and order. For example, there are reports that those who rode motorcycles did not wear helmets.
CI Welagedara: No sir, we did not permit such transgressions. they may have done so where the police could not see them.
Dr Wickremaratne: Your successor who testified before you said that the practice of not wearing helmets and defying the traffic police had been taken for granted at the time he assumed duties as the OIC there.
CI Welagedara: No, sir. There was no such practice.
MP Sumanthiran: What type of complaints of clashes were there? Did Zahran’s name come up?
CI Welagedara: No sir his name was not there. Only Army Mohideen’s name came up.
Sumanthiran: Why is he called Army Mohideen?
CI Welagedara: He was an army informant.
MP Sumanthiran: During elections, he was involved in clashes among political parties. Whom did he support?
CI Welagedara: He was with Provincial Council member Shibly Farooq, representing the SLMC.