No immediate threat of terrorism – Army Commander

(COLOMBO, LANKAPUVATH) –Army Commander Lieutenant General Mahesh Senanayake, testifying before the Parliament Select Committee probing the 21/4 Easter Attacks, yesterday, said that there was no immediate threat from terrorism in the country. Nevertheless, the security forces continue to remain vigilant.

“I agree there is no time frame and a terrorist can attack without warning, That is why the security forces are vigilant,” he said. “It is not possible for anyone to claim that they have rooted out terrorist elements 100 percent. It’s not pragmatic.”The Eelam war veteran told the PSC that the tri-forces, police and intelligence agencies will ensure that all attempts to revive defeated terrorist outfits are thwarted. “Even though we have defeated the LTTE, the fight is far from over. We are still vigilant, we are aware there is a diaspora that may have sympathies with the terrorists, We cannot be complacent.”

Lt. Gen.Senanayake said that since the terror attacks on Easter, coordination between the tri-forces, police and intelligence services have been strengthened. “We meet regularly and have been able to create an integrated intelligence network with inputs from foreign intelligence agencies as well.”

PSC member Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka, MP, referred to the testimony of the former Defence Secretary who had stated that the threat of ISIS in Sri Lanka had been eliminated 95 percent. “The war we fought in the past is different from the one we wage now. The former Defence Secretary said 95 percent of the threat had been eliminated but two weeks later, more individuals were arrested from India and Saudi Arabia who could have become bombers,” the Field Marshal pointed out.

Responding, the Army Commander said that the security forces had been able to contain the situation and had reached a critical juncture where sweeping arrests were made and links to the banned organizations weakened. The security forces were now maintaining their state of alertness.

Asked by PSC members if he had, at any point, been pressurized by any politician or parliamentarian to release any individuals suspected of having links to the bombers or the terrorist organizations, the Army Commander replied that former Minister Rishard Bathiudeen had merely made a request for more information and that, to date, no one had contacted him regarding the release of any suspects.

“It was on April 26 that former Minister Rishad Bathiudeen called me to inquire about an individual by the name of Ishan Ahamed, who had been arrested by the Army in Dehiwala. Rishad merely mentioned the name and asked if the person was arrested. I told him that I was not aware. He called me a second time and asked the same. I then checked with my staff and found that this individual was arrested based on credible information. When he called me the third time, I told him that this individual was arrested and that he should call me in two years again,” he said. “At no time did Rishad pressurise me to release him or reveal information. He merely made a request to inquire. No other politician, official or Parliamentarian has, to date, made any such request from me.”

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