U.S. charges three Sri Lankans over 2019 Easter Sunday attacks

(COLOMBO, LANKAPUVATH) – The United States Department of Justice Friday announced that three Sri Lankan citizens have been charged with terrorism offenses, including conspiring to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization (ISIS) over the 2019 Easter Sunday suicide attacks.

The men were part of a group of ISIS supporters which called itself “ISIS in Sri Lanka.” That group is responsible for the 2019 Easter Sunday attacks in Sri Lanka, which killed 268 people, including five U.S. citizens, and injured over 500 others, according to a federal criminal complaint unsealed today.

The complaint outlines the defendants’ roles in the conspiracy and the events that led to near-simultaneous suicide bombings in the Sri Lankan cities of Colombo, Negombo and Batticaloa on April 21, 2019.

One of the U.S. citizens killed was a Department of Commerce employee who had traveled to Sri Lanka on official business, the Justice Department said.

Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers said the defendants were charged with bearing their share of the responsibility for these deaths.

“According to these charges, the defendants were committed supporters of ISIS, recruited others to ISIS’s violent cause, purchased materials for and made IEDs, helped to prepare and trained others who participated in the attacks, and murdered in the name of this deadly foreign terrorist organization,” Demers said.

All the defendants are in custody in Sri Lanka, and the Justice Department said it will support the Sri Lankan investigation and prosecution in Sri Lanka and will continue to work with the authorities there to pursue the shared goal of holding these defendants accountable for their crimes.

“At the same time, these charges reflect that the U.S. justice system remains a powerful tool to bring to bear against those who harm our citizens abroad. We will continue to pursue justice for the victims of these heinous attacks and for all American victims of terrorism,” the U.S. official said.

“The United States remains confident in the Sri Lankan authorities’ ability to bring the perpetrators to justice – and this complaint makes clear that we stand ready with these charges in the event the defendants attempt to evade justice,” said Nick Hanna, the U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California.

The three defendants named in the criminal complaint, all of whom pledged allegiance to ISIS, are:

Mohamed Naufar, the “second emir” for the group of ISIS supporters that called itself “ISIS in Sri Lanka,” who allegedly led the group’s propaganda efforts, recruited others to join ISIS, and led a series of multi-day military-type trainings;
Mohamed Anwar Mohamed Riskan, who allegedly helped manufacture the IEDs used in the Easter Attacks; and
Ahamed Milhan Hayathu Moahmed, who allegedly executed a police officer in order to obtain the officer’s firearm, shot a suspected informant, and scouted a location for a separate terrorist attack.
All three defendants are charged with conspiring to provide, providing, and attempting to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization. Additionally, Naufar and Milhan are charged with aiding and abetting the receipt of military-type training from ISIS.

“The criminal case filed on Dec. 11, 2020, in the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles is the result of a nearly two-year investigation by the FBI, which assisted Sri Lankan authorities in the wake of the suicide bombings that targeted Christian churches and luxury hotels frequented by Westerners. The defendants named in the complaint, along with other suspects linked to the attacks, currently are detained in Sri Lanka, where a criminal investigation is ongoing,” the Justice Department said in a release.

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