TID probing 20 Lankans over suspected IS links

  • Follow-up on 702 Lankan numbers found in IS-affiliated Indian’s WhatsApp group

BY Buddhika Samaraweera

The Terrorism Investigation Division (TID) of the Police is currently carrying out further investigations to identify the owners of the 702 Sri Lankan phone numbers that were found to have been in a WhatsApp group run by an Indian national who was arrested on charges of having links with the Islamic State (IS) organisation in India.

According to Police Media Spokesman Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Nihal Thalduwa, who spoke to The Morning, 20 suspects are currently being questioned under detention orders (DOs), regarding the said telephone numbers.

“Currently, about 20 suspects linked to those phone numbers are being held under DOs. The TID is investigating as to whether they have had any links with the IS organisation,” he stated.

However, he said that although the said suspects could be bearers of the IS ideology, a confirmation cannot still be made as to whether they have had connections with the IS organisation.

“This is not an investigation that commenced very recently. This has been going on for some time and it is not possible to say that the users of all 702 telephone numbers are connected to the IS organisation.”

SSP Thalduwa further said that the data on the 702 phone numbers was being analysed to see if the people who used them have had any suspicious links with foreign countries or nationals. Accordingly, he said that based on what would be revealed through the future investigations, more suspects, if any, would be arrested.

The TID informed the Colombo Additional Magistrate Chandima Liyanage on 1 November that it has launched an investigation into 702 telephone numbers that have been in a WhatsApp group run by an Indian national who has had links with the IS organisation and then been arrested by the Indian Intelligence Services on the same charges. According to the TID, images and sermons by Mohamed Cassim Mohamed Zahran alias Zahran Hashim, who was one of the suicide bombers who carried out the attack on Shangri-La Colombo on 21 April 2019, have also been discovered on the said group.