After the coordinated bomb blasts that claimed over 350 lives in Sri Lanka on Sunday, there is credible evidence of 40-year-old National Tawheed Jamaath leader Maulvi Zahran Hashim being the mastermind of the attacks. The input shared by India's intelligence agencies RAW and NIA as well as the video released by ISIS clearly shows Zahran, who is a local hardline Muslim cleric, as being the mastermind.
Interestingly, Sri Lanka's Muslim Council had also alerted the police about Hashim's suspected terror activities and his networking with ISIS in Syria. Post the Sunday attacks, an agency linked to ISIS had also issued a statement as well as a photograph of seven scarf-clad men and a middle-aged man whose face wasn't covered and was identified as Zahran Hashim. All of them owed their allegiance to ISIS chief Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi.
Who is Zahran Hashmi?
Zahran Hashim was a local Islamic cleric who hailed from east-coast Sri Lankan town Kattankundy, a mostly Muslim dominated region. Described as an indifferent and fierce preacher who even involved himself in fights at the local mosque, Hashim had even gone to study in India where he is reported to have triggered student clashes.
Hashim dropped out of college and took to learning radical ISIS-influenced Islamic ideology and had subsequently developed stronger international links. Hashim also uploaded many of his sermons and lectures on social media platforms like YouTube and Facebook from India, which had virtually gone unnoticed by Sri Lankan police authorities.
The objectionable, hate-filled sermons of Hashim called for establishing Islamic rule in Southern parts of India as well as Sri Lanka. During the last three years, the hate preacher amassed thousands of followers online who were taught to eliminate non-Muslims in typical ISIS propaganda style.
Surprisingly, ISIS's own media channel Al-Ghuraba was easily available to thousands of youth in Sri Lanka, which also featured Hashim's hate-filled videos where he openly advocated establishing Muslim rule.
The Sri Lankan police authorities have accepted that they sent out an alert on April 11 post-India's warning that ISIS may be planning a terror attack on its soil. But until then, the involvement of Hashim was not speculated since he had not orchestrated a big terror activity in the country.
There is a likelihood that Hashim may have carried out the suicide bombing and may be dead.