TID tracked every movement of Zahran since 2018 – Nalaka de Silva | Daily News
Parliamentary Select Committee probing Easter Sunday terror attacks

TID tracked every movement of Zahran since 2018 – Nalaka de Silva

  •  I knew that he would cause trouble
  •  Suggested banning of NTJ as far back as 2017
  • Reported his FB and SM accounts through TRC and SL CERT
  •  Social Media patterns changed after Digana
  •  TID issued open warrant when Zahran went underground
  • Daily News coverage praised by PSC

Making his submissions seated in a wheelchair wearing a neck brace, former Police counter-terror head Deputy Inspector General of Police Nalaka de Silva told the Parliamentary Select Committee probing the Easter Bombings that his units had ISIS novice Zahran under 24-hour surveillance and knew of his movements since 2016.

“When we zeroed in on Zahran, we realized he was going down a dangerous path. We started a new unit headed by IP Pathriana to monitor his activities 24h-hours a day, seven days a week,” the former head of the Terrorism Investigation Division (TID) said. “But Zahran went into hiding when the Kattankudy police filed a B-report over a knife clash his group had with another Muslim group. I knew he would soon cause trouble so the TID issued an open warrant when he could not be found.”

De Silva told the Committee that the TID had been monitoring the National Thowheed Jama’ath (NTJ), which was formerly Sri Lanka Thowheed Jama’ath since 2013 and 2014. “Immediately following the Digana incident, the TID noticed a drastic change in the social media profiles of Zahran. He was mobilizing support and urging violence.”

He had alerted the Telecommunication Regulatory Commission to block Zahran’s websites and had informed Sri Lanka CERT to block two Facebook pages, one of which was a fake profile used by him.

“We continued to monitor his family members,” de Silva said adding that their phones were tapped so Zahran could be located as soon as he made contact with his family. “We wanted to summon him for questioning and subsequently arrest him. I had a strategy specifically for Zahran, which I had not conveyed to anyone; neither did I write it down. I don’t know if the investigations were halted after my departure, but it may have been hampered in the absence of my leadership.”

“The officers at TID were not accustomed to investigating this type of terrorism. They knew the LTTE but not much about ISIS. I sent them overseas for training. Last year when I went to New York in June, I told officials there to help us curtail, monitor and block Zahran’s activities on Facebook. I wrote to Facebook but they did not respond to our letter.”

When asked if investigations had slowed down after his departure from the TID, he said he could not be certain but knew that the loss of his leadership was a blow to the Division.

The former chief of the TID was questioned if he had received a directive from the Inspector General of Police Pujith Jayasundara to halt investigations by means of a letter on April 18, 2018. Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka produced a letter and asked the witness if he recognized it. “I recall this letter but it is to do with an individual by the name of Nilamdeen who, I later learned, had served in intelligence service and hence there was no need to investigate him.”

Minister Ravi Karunanayake questioned the witness on the involvement of politicians to which de Silva replied by stating that Zahran held meetings with politicians. DIG de Silva refused to divulge any names of politicians before the media.

De Silva went on to state that he had never been involved with the Security Council but had communicated directly with the IGP every Monday, since TID was directly under his purview. “I followed protocol which is to brief and coordinate with the IGP.

I did not go out of my way to collaborate with other agencies as it was not required of me.”

He also revealed that the Terrorism Investigation Unit’s scope of work was changed and so was its name. “The organization changed into the Counter-Terrorism and Terrorism investigation Division (CTID),” he said.

The witness was repeatedly told by Dr. Jayampathy Wickremaratne not to divulge information that would be prejudicial. The witness sought permission from the committee to refrain from answering questions connected to his court case as he was on bail.

Other witnesses who were meant to testify today including Director of CID SSP Shani Abeysekara, Senior DIG Ravi Seneviratne, and TID director Warna Jayasundara, failed to appear before the PSC yesterday. Dr Wickremaratne told the media that it would be better to question them after questioning Inspector General of Police Pujith Jayasundara and Former Defense Secretary Hemasiri Fernando.

Both have been summoned to appear before the Committee on June 6th (tomorrow).

Meanwhile, Tamil National Alliance senior M.A Sumanthiran praised the Daily News coverage of the Parliament Select Committee proceeding adding that it was impartial and bore no effect on the country’s national security.

 


 

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