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National Tawhid Jama'at
National Tohid Jamaat
National Towhid Jamaat
National Thowheed Jamath (NTJ)

On 21 April 2019 Sri Lanka's Easter Sunday turned into a scene of death and destruction. Churches and luxury hotels were targeted in at least eight coordinated blasts. Hundreds of people were killed, many as they attended Christian services. Suicide bombers killed more than 250 people. Officials had earlier set the death toll at more than 350 but revised the number on Thursday, saying some of the bodies may have been counted twice. Police said the first six explosions happened in one wave, two more blasts came hours later. The bombings took place in the heart of the capital, Colombo, and in the cities of Negombo and Batticaloa A curfew was imposed and major social media networks blocked, including Facebook and WhatsApp. The attacks were the worst since the South Asian country's civil war ended in 2009. Sri Lanka's prime minister vowed to take action against those responsible. There were no immediate claims of responsibility.

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena banned the groups National Thawheedh Jamaath (NTJ) and Jamathei Millathu Ibrahim (JMI) which are suspected of being behind the Easter Sunday blasts. Sirisena acted 27 April 2019 in terms of powers vested in him as the under Emergency Regulations No. 01 of 2019 to ban the organizations. Sri Lanka launched a criminal investigation immediately after the attacks and has reportedly already arrested over 100 suspects. President Sirisena said on 26 April 2019 that there were about 140 people in Sri Lanka suspected to have links to the Islamic State group and assured all would be arrested in the coming days.

Some observers noted the attacks bore the hallmarks of those carried out previously by al-Qaeda and Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). These synchronised attacks are out of the ordinary for Sri Lanka. Compared with similar attacks in the Middle East and Southeast Asia, it has the DNA of attacks carried out by Islamic State and al-Qaeda. many Sri Lankans who left to fight in Syria will likely return home and join groups like NTJ. It is unclear how many Sri Lankans have joined the Syrian war over the years, but officials in 2016 said at least 32 citizens were known to have joined IS. Sri Lankan government had itself acknowledged that 68 of its nationals had gone to fight for Islamic State (Daesh) in Syria and Iraq.

There were major reasons for the suspicion of the National Tohid Jamaat have not taken any responsibility for these attacks, but the National Taheed Jamaat Organization is considered responsible for them. There are two reasons behind this. The first reason is that the Sri Lankan intelligence department had already issued alerts on these attacks. According to the Intelligence report, this organization was plotting to attack in many places. Apart from this, the other major reason is the way of these attacks. This attack also coincides with the Holi Artisan Bakery in Bangladesh in Dhaka in 2016. However, these attacks were carried out by the local militants from Bangladesh.

National Towhid Jamaat [NTJ] is an Islamic extremist organization, present mainly in the eastern province of Sri Lanka. The nomenclature is pretty standard, as a "Jama'at" is an assembly or congregation, while "Tawhid" is unity, the oneness of Allah. There is a real shortage of names, a source of potential confusion. In India, a toally un-related TNTJ is the Tamil Nadu Thowheed Jamath, a non-political Islamic organization based in Tamil Nadu, founded in 2004 by P Jainulabdeen. It has condemned the attacks. Unlike the Sri Lankan outfit, TNTJ is actively involved in social services like blood donation, flood relief programmes and creating awareness about dengue fever.

An FIR was lodged against the Indian organization in Tamil Nadu in October 2017. This organization was accused of forcibly converted some of the Christian community into Islam. But NTJ is quite unlike the Tawheed Jamaat of South India which is very powerful with a huge membership, and boasts in Zainul-Abdeen a theologian of high caliber. The Sri Lanka National Tawheed Jamaat, on the other hand, is small and relatively insignificant. It cannot be regarded as representative of mainstream Sunni Islam in Sri Lanka, nor for that matter of Wahabi Islam.

The NTJ is believed to be a splinter group of the Sri Lanka Thowheed Jamaat (STLJ), another Islamist group based in the country. But the Sri Lanka Towheeth Jamaath (SLTJ) said the perpetrators must be served the highest punishment. According to its Facebook page, the group organised a blood donation drive in Kandy to help those injured in the blasts. The organisation had vehemently opposed an initiative to amend Muslim personal law and some of its members have been arrested in the past for hate speech.

With speculation of the Tamil Nadu Thowheed Jamat (TNTJ) possible links to National Thowheed Jamaath, TNTJ spokesperson Abdul Rahman denied that the organisation had any links. Just because the two organisations have Thowheed in their names, it doesnt mean that they are linked, he said. In 2015, TNTJ leader P. Jainulabudeen was invited by the SLTJ to release the Sinhala version of the Koran in 2015, amid some opposition from within the community. Mr. Rahman added: It is true that [he] was invited to talk about dargah worship, but the Muslims who practise such forms of worship opposed it and reported it to Sri Lankan authorities saying that such talks would create issues in the society.

Rasmin, a former assistant secretary of the SLTJ, said a majority of members, including him, had split from the SLTJ to form the Ceylon Thowheed Jamaath (CTJ). The SLTJ was working with the Tamil Nadu Thowheed Jamaath. We were not comfortable with that and decided to split. We also had some differences on the practise of Islam, he told The Hindu.

The NTJ, he said, had absolutely no links with the SLTJ or the newly-formed CTJ. However, the organisations were aware of Zaharan, he said, referring to the man believed to be leading the NTJ. He was based in Kattankudy in Batticaloa [Eastern Province] and ran a Facebook page where he would explicitly commend the ISs ideology and approach. We alerted the Sri Lankan intelligence agencies about this man three years ago, they are a dangerous group, Rasmin said. They asked me to come today to record some statements. I have nothing to hide, he said.

Apart from this, the secretary of Selective Precision Effects At Range (SPEAR), whose name is Abdul Reiki aka Abdul Rajik aka Abdul Razaq, is known for his provocative statements. He made very objectionable statements about Buddhism in the year 2014. In the same year, Peace Loving Moderate Muslims in Sri Lanka (PLMMSL) demanded a ban on this organization. Letters were written to the United Nations about this.

On 16 November 2016, Abdul was arrested for the first time due to his controversial statements - that Buddhism encourages cannibalism, that the Buddha ate human flesh and so on. Maligawatte police have reportedly arrested the 30-year-old Razik on charges of inciting religious disharmony by speaking against other religions in an offensive manner during a protest campaign held in Maligawatte on November 3. Sri Lanka Thawheed Jamaath (SLTJ) protested against the Sri Lankan government's decision to amend the controversial Muslim Personal Law in order to comply with international conventions on women and children rights. SLTJ charged that the government is changing the law accepting the conditions set by the European Union to grant the GSP+ facility back. The upshot was that he was arrested, brought to trial, apologized, and released. Evidently the apology meant that he repudiated his absurd charges against Buddhism.

The National Towhid Jamaat organization in Sri Lanka is known for promoting fundamentalist message and Wahhabi ideology. Apart from this, it is also encouraging women to wear burqa and mosques, as well as Shariah law. Theres very little information available about this controversial outfit, but it is said to have originated in the Muslim-dominated eastern Sri Lanka town of Kattankudy.

NJT first appeared in 2013. At that time, the Sri Lankan Defense Minister had talked about it joining its ISIS (Islamic State). Earlier this organization had been accused of inciting violence. This organization also damaged Buddhist idols in 2018. Because of which the tension increased among Buddhists and Muslims.

In March 2017, local media reported NTJ was involved in a clash in the predominantly Muslim Karrankudt region, which resulted in three injuries. During anti-Muslim riots in Sri Lanka last year, the NTJ used social media to highlight discrimination against Muslims in the country, such as setting up Buddhist symbols in the northeast where no Buddhists lived.

The group has a limited social media presence. Its Twitter account (which posts in Tamil) has been inactive since March 2018 while its YouTube account which espouses hatred towards other communities, although updated regularly, has very few views. Despite its limited social media presence, the Sri Lankan Muslim community has long been aware of the threat NTJ posed to security.

Sri Lanka's Easter Sunday bombings were retaliation for a recent attack on mosques in New Zealand, the country's state minister of defence said. Ruwan Wijewardene made the comment to politicians in parliament on Tuesday without providing evidence or explaining where the information came from about the attacks. "The preliminary investigations have revealed that what happened in Sri Lanka was in retaliation for the attack against Muslims in Christchurch, but we are continuing investigations," Wijewardene said. Fifty people were killed in shooting attacks on two mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch on March 15.

Islamic State claimed responsibility for the coordinated blasts. Wijewardene said two Sri Lankan Islamist groups - the National Thawheed Jamaut (NTJ) and Jammiyathul Millathu Ibrahim (JMI) - were responsible for the blasts. Rohan Gunaratna, a Singapore-based security expert, said NTJ was Daeshs branch in Sri Lanka and perpetrators were known to have links to Sri Lankans who travelled to join the hardline group in Syria and Iraq. By 23 April 2019 At least 40 people had been arrested in connection with the attacks and a state of emergency has been imposed, giving police extensive powers to detain and interrogate suspects without court orders. Among the dozens of the detained were the driver of a van allegedly used by the suicide attackers and the owner of a house where some of them lived.

Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne on 22 April 2019 accused a little-known local Muslim organisation of responsibility and suggested it had foreign support. Senaratne blamed President Maithripala Sirisena's government for failing to act on intelligence on the group shared weeks before the multiple blasts, which targeted churches and luxury hotels across the South Asian island nation. Speaking at a press conference in the capital Colombo, Senaratne said the failure to act against National Thowheeth Jama'ath, a hardline Muslim organisation in Sri Lanka, had devastated the entire country.

He said on April 4, a foreign intelligence agency passed on information that "such an incident will take place in this country" involving "suicide bombers". "In those detailed reports, they have said that the targets are the Christian and Catholic churches, and also the tourist destinations, hotels," said Senaratne. On April 9, the defence ministry wrote to the police chief with intelligence that included the group's name. On April 11, the police wrote to the heads of security of the judiciary and diplomatic security division, Senaratne added.

"Unfortunately, despite all these revelations by the intelligence units, we could not avert these attacks," said Senaratne, also the cabinet spokesman. "We are responsible. We are very sorry and we apologise to everybody." He also hinted at a possible role of an international network in the Easter Sunday attacks. "We don't see that only a small organisation in this country can do all that," Senaratne said of the devastation. "We are now investigating international support for them and their other links - how they produced the suicide bombers and bombs like this."

Sri Lankan Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne said at a press conference Monday that all seven bombers wore explosive suicide vests. He said they were Sri Lankan citizens with memberships in NTJ, and likely received outside support. "We do not believe these attacks were carried out by a group of people who were confined to this country," Senaratne told reporters. "There must be a wider international network behind it." Experts say NTJ was likely inspired by Islamic State, which has unleashed deadly attacks in the past against churches and popular tourist destinations in different countries.

Sri Lankan security forces have exchanged gunfire with an armed group in Kalmunai in the eastern region of the country. A military spokesman said 15 bodies, including those of six children, were found in the house where the gunbattle took place late Friday 26 April 2019. Authorities say the militants set off three explosions and opened fire. The military found a cache of 150 sticks of gelignite (an explosive jelly), an Islamic State uniform, steel pellets, and a dron.,



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Page last modified: 28-04-2019 18:51:06 ZULU