(COLOMBO, LANKAPUVATH) – The Easter Sunday bombings in Sri Lanka is likely to be the first case for India’s National Investigation Agency (NIA) to probe after Parliament amended an Act empowering it to investigate terror cases abroad, the Press Trust of India (PTI) reported.
With the Lok Sabha giving its nod to the the National Investigation Agency (Amendment) Bill on 17 July and the Law Ministry issuing a notification to this effect on 25 July, the first case to be investigated abroad is going to be the Sri Lanka suicide bombings, a Home Ministry Official of India privy to the development said.
A two-member team of the NIA had visited Sri Lanka in May and had held discussions with authorities there about claims that some terrorists, owning allegiance to the dreaded terror group Islamic State (IS), had travelled to India, including Kashmir. However, so far the NIA has not been able to register any case due to lack of its jurisdiction. But with the amended law, the agency can probe the case, the official said.
The amended Act gives powers to the NIA to probe terror attacks targeting Indians, Indian interests abroad and having links with India. The latest amendments will enable the NIA to additionally investigate offenses related to human trafficking, counterfeit currency, manufacture or sale of prohibited arms, cyber-terrorism, and offenses under the Explosive Substances Act, 1908. A special court in New Delhi will preside over such cases, according to the amendments.
Over 250 people were killed when nine suicide bombers carried out a series of blasts in Sri Lanka on 21 April.
Before the Easter Sunday bombings, India had alerted Sri Lanka that IS terrorists were planning to carry out strikes there. India had been regularly sharing intelligence inputs about a possible terror attack in Sri Lanka targeting the Indian High Commission and religious places there, officials said. The inputs to Sri Lanka were sent through diplomatic channels.
Earlier, the NIA had stumbled upon videos of National Thowheed Jama’ath (NTJ) leader Zahran Hashim during the investigation of a terror case and the videos were indicative of an intended terror attack on religious places as well as the Indian High Commission in Colombo, officials said. Hashim was among the nine suicide bombers who carried out the series of blasts in Sri Lanka.
The videos showed Hashim asking youths from Sri Lanka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala to establish an Islamic rule in the region.
After the bombings in Sri Lanka, the NIA had arrested 29-year-old Riyas A, also known as Riyas Aboobacker or Abu Dujana, a resident of Palakkad in Kerala. He is alleged to have been in touch with Hashim on social media platforms, the officials said. The accused had disclosed during investigations that he had been following speeches of Hashim for more than a year and has also followed the speeches delivered by controversial Islamic preacher Zakir Naik, currently based in Malaysia.
According to inputs from the central agencies, Hashim had spent time in India last year during which he attempted to influence youths in Tamil Nadu and Kerala to join him.
Lieutenant General Mahesh Senanayake, the commander of the Sri Lanka Army, had claimed that the suicide bombers had travelled to some cities in India, including Kashmir. “They (the suspects) have gone to India, they’ve gone to Kashmir, Bangalore, they’ve travelled to Kerala state. This is the information available with us,” he had told the BBC in May.
However, the Jammu & Kashmir Police had denied this and had asked the Sri Lankan authorities to share more information about it.