Mosque Officials Say They Warned Sri Lankan Authorities About Attacks

Further evidence that Sri Lankan authorities failed to act on warnings of rising Jihadism in their country.

Officials at a mosque in Sri Lanka where several of the attackers responsible for Sunday’s massacre that resulted in the deaths of more than 300 people say that they warned law enforcement and government officials about some of the attackers involved in Sunday’s attack:

Reyyaz Salley, chairman of the Shaikh Usman Waliyullah mosque, told CNN that he had repeatedly attempted to warn the government about radical preachers in Sri Lanka, including Zahran Hashim, the alleged mastermind of the attacks. 

“They started to attack Sufi mosques and shrines (in 2010),” he said. 

In February 2019, Salley sent police and intelligence officials videos that Hashim made, which Salley considered promoting jihad. He urged them to act upon it.

“People have been brainwashed. He was talking about jihad. These are all very dangerous messages for the country,” he says.

“If the authorities had taken our advice this could have been prevented.”

This news comes in the wake of the reports earlier this week that government officials had at least some warning of the attacks prior to Sunday but failed to act on them. At this time it’s still unclear what level of detail those warnings included so it’s not at all clear if the information the government did have would have been anywhere near sufficient to stop the attacks even if it had been acted upon. Additionally, it’s unclear if the sources of the information that the government had were sufficiently reliable to justify acting on them.

Notwithstanding this, though, the fact that the Sri Lankan government had those warnings in hand prior to the attacks and that it failed to act on that information, combined with the fact that it apparently failed to heed the warnings of Sri Lankan Muslims about the rise of Jihadist rhetoric from members of their own community is likely to lead to many questions about exactly how the government handled the situation and whether they are prepared to deal with what appears to be a growing Jihadist threat in the country.

This news comes at the same time that it is being reported that the group responsible for Sunday’s attacks was apparently planning a second wave of attacks:

A high-level intelligence official in Sri Lanka tells CNN that National Tawheed Jamath (NTJ) was planning a second wave of attacks across Sri Lanka.

NTJ has been named as the perpetrators by the Sri Lankan government, but it has not claimed the attacks.

In a statement published by the ISIS-affiliated news agency Amaq, the terror group said Sunday’s attackers were “fighters of the Islamic State,” but its involvement in the attacks has not been proven.

The information was discovered in intelligence operations since Sunday’s explosions, according to the official.

If nothing else, this seems to be an indication that Islamic Jihadism is attempting to make inroads in parts of the Muslim world where, until now, it has not had any serious impact. That poses serious problems not just for Sri Lanka but also for nations such as India and Indonesia which, until now, have largely managed to avoid the rise of Jihadism among their Muslim population.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.