Zahran Hashim, who is considered to have engineered the Easter attacks in Sri Lanka, spent substantial time in India, a top Sri Lankan military source, reported The Hindu on Friday.
Investigators identified Hashim as the leader of the National Tauheed Jamaath, which they said executed the highly coordinated blasts in the Indian Ocean island nation.
Two days later, the militant Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attacks and subsequently released an image of eight suspected bombers. The man seen standing at the centre is believed to be Hashim. The other militants had covered their faces with a scarf.
Sri Lankan investigators, however, have identified nine suicide bombers, including a woman. “We are looking into the Islamic State angle. We also suspect that some of those radical youth were indoctrinated and trained in India, possibly Tamil Nadu,” the senior official said, on condition of anonymity.
Indian officials would not comment on Hashim travelling to India but pointed to evidence of virtual links he maintained with youth believed to be of Indian origin.
More than 100 followers of Hashim’s Facebook page are being investigated, said an official, who asked not to be named. The first hints of Hashim’s doctrinal videos, to likely radicalise youth, emerged when Indian authorities interrogated seven members of a group whose leader, officials found, was a follower of Hashim.
The men were Islamic State sympathisers and arrested in September 2018 in Coimbatore, on suspicion that they were plotting the assassination of certain political and religious leaders in India, the official said.
Underscoring Pakistan’s support to the war on terror, Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said Colombo may seek Islamabad’s help to trace terrorists behind the Easter Sunday attacks.
In a written interview to the Hindustan Times, Wickremesinghe said Pakistan has fully supported Sri Lanka’s war on terror. “If necessary, we will seek their help to trace the terrorists and eliminate them.”
The Sri Lankan premier believes that the terror attack may boost ties between the two countries.
“I see this tragic event as further strengthening the trust that exists between our countries and increasing cooperation,” he said.
This story originally appeared in The Hindu