Written by Hassaan Shazuli
19 Sep, 2020 | 3:41 pm
COLOMBO (News1st): The arrest of April 21st terrorist attacks mastermind Zaharan Hashim had been thwarted to a certain extent due to political influence, former defence secretary Hemasiri Fernando said Saturday.
In a testimony at the presidential commission probing last year’s April 21st attacks, Fernando pointed out that certain political factors had negatively impacted certain security-related matters in the Eastern Province.
The mastermind of the bombings Zaharan Hashim and his National Thowheed Jamath group were mainly operational in the region.
During the sitting, it was revealed that the return of some Sri Lankans after receiving training under the ISIS terrorist group had been discussed during an intelligence meeting on March 19 last year.
Fernando admitted that this posed a threat to national security and the people, and that there were sufficient legal provisions to take relevant action.
However, he pointed out that certain political factors including the need to appease Muslim politicians had thwarted the procsss.
The witness added that he had been unable to personally emphasize the seriousness of this matter to the President, who was also defence minister, due to a rift that had been caused after five politicians had misled the President.
Meanwhile, the former defence secretary said he had questioned the then State Intelligence Service director Nilantha Jayawardena on foreign intelligence warnings of the attack, during an intelligence meeting on the 9th of April last year.
However, he told investigators that the then SIS director had responded in a hushed tone stating that he would send a detailed report in a few days.
Fernando said that the situation would have been different if the other officials at the meeting had been informed about the matter.
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