THE NATIONAL Investigation Agency (NIA) is keen on sending a team to Colombo to study the series of blasts in churches and hotels across Sri Lanka on Sunday that claimed 290 lives, official sources told The Indian Express.
The agency is likely to request the Union Home Ministry to take a call on the visit since an attack so close to India’s shores could have implications for the country, sources said.
“We would like to visit Sri Lanka and study this terror attack. An attack of such scale and proportion has not happened in the sub-continent in recent memory. After the fall of LTTE, Sri Lanka has hardly seen any big attacks. This points to the emergence of a new force that may also be inimical to India’s interests,” an NIA official said.
Given the the scale of the attack, sources said, Indian agencies believe it could not have been pulled off without external help in logistics and training.
“Colombo has said that the attack was engineered by National Towheeth Jamaath… it is unlikely the outfit could have carried out an attack of this scale on its own. It has no history of mounting attacks even a fraction as lethal as this. One must keep in mind that a lot of Sri Lankan recruits in the Islamic State returned to the country recently from Syria. It’s an angle that cannot be ignored,” a security official said.
In 2014, NIA had arrested two Sri Lankan nationals from Chennai for allegedly planning to attack the US consulate in the city. At the time, the agency had said that the accused had been recruited by an official of the Sri Lanka High Commission.
Central agencies had also found that the LeT was setting up a base in eastern Sri Lanka and had informed Lankan authorities at that time, sources said.
The NIA had earlier showed interest in visiting France in the aftermath of the Paris attacks in 2015. A letter rogatory to this effect had been sent to France in December 2018. The agency wanted to question one of the suspects who had links with Pakistan-based terror outfit LeT. But that visit has not materialised as yet, sources said.
In December 2018, a French team visited Kochi to question alleged IS operative Subahani Haja Moideen. Subahani had told NIA during interrogation that he fought for an IS regiment ‘Omer-Kathi-Kaliph’ in Iraq in 2015 and that it was commanded by Abu Sulaimani Al Francisse. He said that during his time there, some of the masterminds of the Paris attack, including Abdel Hamid, Abdesalam and Mohammad Usman, had visited Sulaimani.
In April, the Intelligence Bureau arrested Sri Lankan national Sakir Hussain in Chennai who spoke of a Pakistani conspiracy to target US and Israeli consulates in Chennai with help from two Maldivian nationals. A month later, his associate Sulaiman, another Sri Lankan, was arrested in Malaysia on similar charges. Both had been recruited by a Pakistan diplomat in Sri Lanka, NIA had claimed.Radicalisation in eastern Sri Lanka is said to have begun in the 1980s when clashes with LTTE and Tamils led to a section of Muslims, who form 9.7 per cent of the population, gravitating towards fundamentalist forces. Post the civil war, this radicalisation is now being fuelled by increasing attacks by Buddhist Sinhala groups.