A leaked diplomatic cable shows that Saudi Arabia had an alarmingly accurate bit of information on the dastardly bombings of Sri Lankan Christian churches and high-end hotels on Easter Sunday.
The cable, leaked in a Lebanese newspaper earlier this month, establishes that Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Ibrahim bin Abdul Aziz al-Assaf sent clear warnings to his mission in Sri Lanka before the bombings.
The cable, which was addressed to the Saudi Ambassador in Sri Lanka, was marked 'urgent, confidential and top secret', Lebanese Al-Ahed News revealed.
The article in the website is headlined - Saudi Arabia Has, 'Literally', Sri Lankan Blood on Its Hands!
The crux of the cable is this: "You should inform all those related to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia including counselors, security forces and intelligence during the three coming days, especially on the Christian Easter Day, to avoid presence in public and crowded places namely churches."
The cable was sent to the ambassador some five days prior to the Church bombings that killed more than 250 people, just showing that Riyadh had close information about the impending attacks, that too ominously close to the day of the attack.
The foreign minister also instructs the envoy to "delete all documents, computer data and latest correspondence."
The Saudi Arabian government hasn't denied the existence of this cable of its contents so far.
Here's the full content of the cable:
His Excellency Ambassador Abdul Nasser bin Hussein al-Harethi
You should carry out the following measures immediately:
First: You should delete all documents, computer data and latest correspondence with domestic and foreign members and groups, in addition to imposing a curfew for the embassy personnel unless it is necessary Second: You should inform all those related to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia including counselors, security forces and intelligence during the three coming days, especially on the Christian Easter Day, to avoid presence in public and crowded places namely churches
Third: You should send written news about the Sri Lankan authorities and their viewpoints regularly to this ministry.
Ibrahim bin Abdul Aziz al-Assaf
The alleged Saudi connection and the leaked diplomatic cable never made it to the international news cycle on the Sri Lanka bombings until the Times of India carried a report by Indrani Bagchi on Wednesday, May 22. The story is 'Did Saudi Arabia have inkling about Lanka blasts?' Bagchi is ToI's diplomatic editor and one of the most authoritative national security analysts in the country.
Why didn't Saudi Arabia alert Sri Lankan govt?
While India passed on crucial information on the attack plot hatched by the suspected Isis-affiliated National Tawheed Jamaat (NTJ) to the Sri Lankan government, Saudi Arabia hadn't taken such a measure, as per available information, despite having such information in its possession.
In the event, it remains a fact that no amount of warning helped Colombo avert the attack, displaying a spectacular collapse of the Sri Lankan state mechanism.
The Saudi connection to the blast came to the fore in mid-May when Sri Lanka arrested a Saudi-educated scholar who was linked to Zahran Hashim, the mastermind behind the Easter Sunday attacks
The arrested man, Mohamed Aliyar, had a close relationship with Zahran and had been operating financial transactions," Sri Lankan police said, according to Reuters. Aliyar is the founder of the Centre for Islamic Guidance in Sri Lanka in Kattankudy, Zahran's hometown.
Zahran, 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 a video exhorting his followers from Sri Lanka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala to help establish Islamic rule in the region.