How ISIS rich Sri Lankan Muslims radicalized, orchestrated massacre

COLOMBO: The Suicide Bombs Were Full Of Ball Bearings, Iron Nails And The Explosive TATP, All Characteristics Of The Way They Like To Commit Mass Murders

One Of The Bombers Had Traveled To Syria. Another Trained In Turkey. A Man Was Arrested For Hours After The Attacks Had Pleated Sri Lanka And Syria, Leading Investigators To Identify Him As A Possible Middleman Between The Islamic State And Sri Lanka Militants.

As Sri Lanka N Investigators Reveal Key Details From The Suicide Blast That Killed More Than 250 People In Churches And Hotels Across The Island On Easter Sunday, More Evidence Points To A Role By The Islamic State In Inspiring - And Perhaps Directing - The Slaughter.

Even Now That The Islamic State Has Crossed From Areas In Iraq And Syria Where Its Black Flag Once Flew With Impunity, The Show Is Still Able To Hurricane Massacres By Loyalists In Remote Countries.

Few Outside Counterterrorism Experts Believed Sri Lanka Was In Imminent Danger. But Many Sri Lanka Knew That The Islamic State Was Eyeing Them. And Some Are Furious That Multiple Warnings Went Unheeded. They Feel Their Government Essentially Allowed More Than 250 Lives To Slip Between The Cracks.

In November 2016, The Justice Minister Told Parliament That More Than Two Boxes Sri Lanka Had Recently Joined The Islamic State, Which He Said Was Becoming A" Grave Problem."

A Few Months Later, A Group Of Moderate Muslims Presented Police Officials With 11 Files On Local Islamist Extremists, Including Zaharan Hashim, Whom They Identified As The" Leader Of Team In Sri Lanka."

Officials Have Identified Zaharan As One Of The Suicide Bombers And Possibly The Ring Leader. For Years, Moderate Muslims Had Expressed Concern That Zaharan Was Tearing At Sri Lanka's Delicate Fabric That Span Its Muslim, Buddhist And Christian Communities. They Unsuccessfully Urged The Police To Arrest Him.

Sri Lanka Officials Have Another One For Dismissing Detailed Warnings About These Threats. The Fact That No One Acted On Information About A Growing Islamic State Presence, Just As No One Acted In The Week Before The Attacks On Specific Intelligence About Possible Suicide Bombings, Has Compounded The Complaint And Anger.

" I Am Frustrated, But More Than I Am Pained," Said Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe, The Former Justice Minister, Who Had Spoken In Parliament Over The Foot Of The Islamic State In Parliament Over Two Years Ago. Movements Carefully In The Holes. I Knew The Islamic State Prepared Here For An Attack. Nobody Listened."

Sri Lanka Officials Said They Are" 95 Percent Finished" With The Investigation And Feel Confident That They Have Arrested Nearly All The Accomplices - 140 People Have Been Identified As Suspects - And Have Recovered Their Explosives, Found During Several Raids.

Many New Details Of The Attacks, Including Some Suggesting A More Active Role By The Islamic State Than Only Distant Inspiration, The New York Times Were Told By A Senior Officer Involved In The Investigation And Was Also Informed About Foreign Intelligence The Islamic State. The Senior Official, Like Several Other Interviewees, Spoke About The Condition Of Anonymity As The Investigation Continues.

All The Bombers Were Identified By Officials Like Sri Lanka N. And Investigators Said That Achchi Mohamed Mohamadu Hassthun, Seen On Video Footage Coolly Walking Into St. Sebastian's Church On Easter Sunday Wearing A Large Backpack, Was The Bomb Maker.

Investigators Said They Had Found Bomb-making Manuals On His Computer And That He May Have Trained In Turkey. According To The Senior Sri Lankan Official, Hassthun Built 11 TATP Bombs In A Garage In A Suburb South Of Capital, Using Ordinary Household Materials, Including Huge Bottles Of Glue. Triacetone Triperoxide, Commonly Known As TATP, Is The Explosive Of Choice For Islamic State Bombers, Including Those Behind The Deadly Attacks In Paris In November 2015.

Another Bomber, Abdul Latheef Jamil, Had Traveled To Syria. But Researchers Suspect That He Was Radicalized Earlier In Australia, Where He Studied Aviation Technology.

The Authorities Believe That Inshaf And Ilham Ibrahim, Sons Of One Of Sri Lanka's Wealthiest Spice Traders, Possibly Financed The Whole Plot. In A Final Voice Mail To His Wife, Authorities Said, Inshaf Listed The Money Owed To Him From Various People, Provided Advice On Which Of The Couple's Cars To Sell, And Told Her," I'm Going To God."

Sri Lanka Remains Puzzled Why Some Of Their Most Privileged Young People Would Do This. But The Islamic State Ideology Allure To Some Of Sri Lanka's Most Well-to-do Families Has Been Known For Years.

" These Are Not Individuals Of Normal Muslim Families," Rajapakshe Told Parliament In His 2016 Speech.

Rajapakshe Said He Had Based His Claims On Detailed Information Provided By Moderate Muslims And Government Intelligence Officers. He And Others Said It Made Sense Because Sri Lanka Affluent Had More Time And Resources To Surf The Internet And Find Extremist Material Than Those Who Had To Devote All Their Energies To Making Ends.

Still, Rajapakshe Said, After He Gave His Speech, He Was Ridiculed As An Anti-Islamic Dweper.

Sri Lanka Officials Said The First Sri Lanka Joined The Islamic State In 2013 Or 2014, Declared The Caliphate Straddling Syria And Iraq Around The Time.

Back Then, Daya Ratnayake Was Sri Lanka's Army Chief, And The Military And Intelligence Establishment Said Paying Close Attention.

" We Knew What Would Come," He Said.

He Said That The Military Established Special Groups To Follow Radical University Students And Online Postings. He Said The Government Deported More Than 100 Radical Islamist Preachers, Many From Pakistan. And He Was Aware That Zaharan's Group On Sri Lanka's Eastern Coast Was Alienating Moderates And Conservatives Alike.

" Our Message To The Moderates Was To Keep These Radicals With You.

But That Is Exactly What Happened. After The Followers Of Zaharan Attacked Worshipers Of The Sufi Cult, He Evaded Arrest And Disappeared.

In 2015, The Sri Lanka Government Confirmed Its First Case Of A Homegrown Islamic State Fighter. Mohamed Muhsin Sharhaz Nilam, A Well-respected School Principal And Karate Instructor From Central Sri Lanka, Was Killed In A Coalition Air Strike In Syria.

Around This Time, Sri Lanka's Politics Were In Upheaval. Voters Threw Out President Mahinda Rajapaksa, The Strongman Who Brought Sri Lanka's Decades Long Civil War To A Brutal End In 2009, And Elected Maithripala Sirisena, A Career Politician From Humble Roots Who Presented Himself As A Democratic Reformer.

Independent Analysts Say That Sirisena Was Too Quick To Move Sri Lanka Off Its Military Footing And That It Sidelined Many Good Intelligence Officers.

Experts Who Track The Islamic State's Media Operations Said They Had Seen Few If Any Specific Mentions Of Sri Lanka Before The Easter Attacks. The Islamic State Said Plenty About Slaughtering Christians, But Its Focus Was The Middle East, Europe And, More Recently, West Africa.

The Islamic State's Claim Of Responsibility For The Sri Lanka Attacks, And Its Release Of A Video Showing Zaharan Pledging Allegiance To The Group's Leader, Seemed To Prove That They Had At Least Maintained Contact.

Further, To Make The Devastating Bombs Used In Sri Lanka, Most Experts Believe That Experienced Islamic State Operatives Must Have Helped.

" You Need Expertise To Make The Bomb, Expertise For Detonators, Expertise For Site Selection And How To Indoctrinate People To Commit Suicide," Said Sidney Jones, Director Of The Institute For Policy Analysis Of Conflicts In Jakarta , Indonesia.

" All That," She Said," Follows A Personal Training."

Sri Lanka N Investigators Say They Are Still Trying To Determine How That Might Have Happened.

Officials Believe That A Sri Lanka Man Named Sadiq, Who Has Been Arrested, Traveled To Syria Several Times And Served As Zaharan's Right-hand Man. They Also Suspect The Islamic State Encouraged Or Directed The Local Group To Attack Churches. Before The Easter Attacks, There Had Been A Little Muslim-Christian Strife In Sri Lanka. Adherents Of Both Religions Are Small Minorities Compared To The Country's Buddhist Majority.

Investigators Say That All Bombs In Packs Worn By The Attackers Were Activated By Pulling A Belt. Another Bomb Was Placed Outside One Of The Churches, Timed To Explode About 90 Minutes After The First Explosions, With The Aim Of Killing The Emergency Teams And Officials Rushing To The Stage.

It Couldn't Explode.

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