Sri Lanka bombers part of terror arc stretching from Maldives to Bangladesh

The spectacular collapse of the Sri Lankan state mechanism made international headlines after it emerged that India had passed on clear leads on the impending terror strike in the island state -- all of which were mysteriously ignored. In further updates it has also emerged that India's National Investigation Agency (NIA) had stumbled upon the Sri Lanka attack plan after it busted a terror module active in the southern states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

Among crucial pieces of evidence collected by the NIA was a video of National Thowheed Jamaat (NTJ) founder Zahran Hashim, who has been identified as the mastermind behind the Sri Lanka bombing. Hashim, who was also one of the eight suicide bombers who attacked Catholic churches and luxury hotels in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday, was seen in the video exhorting his followers from Sri Lanka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala to help establish Islamic rule in the region.

The NIA unearthed the precious piece of evidence after it busted a terror module in Coimbatore and arrested seven suspects. The accused have been charged with links to the Daesh (Isis) and are in Coimbatore jail. The Daesh-linked module's plot was to eliminate Hindu leaders in south India.

More than 350 people were killed in Sunday's serial blasts in Sri Lanka. On Tuesday the Isis claimed responsibility for the attack. Earlier on Monday images of the suicide bombers were circulated by ISIS-affiliated Telegram accents. The Isis handles claimed that the terror attacks in Sri Lanka were in response to the mosque shooting in New Zealand, which had left 50 worshippers dead.

ISIS Sri Lankan attackers
ISIS Sri Lankan Attackers Twitter/ @Imamofpeace

Multiple media reports said the NIA learnt that those arrested in Coimbatore were in touch with Hashim, the NTJ founder from Sri Lanka. The accused -- Mohamed Ashiq A, Ismail S, Samsudeen, Mohammed Salauddin S, Jafar Shadik Ali and Shahul Hameed -- were brought into touch with international Isis modules through Hashim.

According to central counter-terror investigators, Sri Lankan outfit National Towheed Jama'at members, along with a Tamil Nadu-based militant cell and terror operatives recruited from Kerala, were inspired by the Isis exhortation to create a "separate Islamic confederation" in the region.

At the same time, the NIA has said the Tamil Nadu-based organisation didn't seem to have had a part in the latest attack in Sri Lanka. However, the report confirms that more than a dozen Isis recruits from Kerala and Tamil Nadu were in touch with Hashim and his outfit. Some of the Isis recruits from Kerala are learnt to have travelled to Sri Lanka.

Hashim himself is learnt to have travelled to Maldives as part of the radicalisation and indoctrination process. The call records unearthed by the NIA as part of the Coimbatore probe also showed that Hashim was in regular touch with his handlers and associates in Bangladesh and Afghanistan.

Asia Times reported that Indian authorities said in 2016 that nearly two dozen radicalised Indian youth had moved to Afghanistan to be part of the Isis wing that focused on spreading its tentacles in a region comprising southern Indian states, Maldives, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. This new affiliate was known as the Islamic State-Khorasan Province (IS-KP). The report also says that this unit was initially headed by Pakistan-based Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) operatives.