US Embassy - Colombo - Monitored Muslim radicalism a decade ago
Almost a decade ago, June 2004, a former desk officer of Sri Lanka's Directorate of Internal Intelligence (DII), a senior police officer, who became a close acquaintance of the Regional Security Officer - an American - and his principal assistant located within the American Embassy, Colombo confidentially disclosed the evidence he has gathered about the rise of Muslim radicalism in Sri Lanka.
This Sri Lankan source who gave details of the presence of Muslim radicalism was a Muslim policy officer who had access to classified information as he was attached to the Muslim domestic intelligence unit of Sri Lanka's Directorate of Internal Intelligence.
He was sharing this classified information with American officers - especially the officer who is tasked to monitor intelligence related development in Sri Lanka and the South Asian Region who is known as the Regional Security Officer (RSO).
The retired Muslim Sri Lanka police officer became a 'confidential source' to the American Embassy as the RSO facilitated him to find employment in the private sector.
During several discussions he had with the RSO and his principal assistant within the portals of the American embassy, he disclosed there were four primary Muslim groups based in Colombo: Sri Lanka Jamthi Islam, Thauhid Jamath, Thableeq Jamath, and Jamathi Muslim.
He further disclosed that Sri Lanka Jamthi Islam was based in Colombo universities and funded by the World Assembly of Muslim Youth. Among other activities, the group sponsors youths to attend school in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Yemen. In many instances, these youths then return to Sri Lanka to teach in universities.
He further informed that Thableeq Jamath has branches in Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, India, and the Philippines.
The U.S. diplomatic mission officers had no reason to dismiss what this former (Muslim) Sri Lankan police officer disclosed as he had access to classified intelligence and information because of his work in the Muslim domestic intelligence unit of the DII. Further, the American officers and the former police officer had developed a bond because the latter obtained a lucrative private sector employment facilitated by the embassy.
The former Sri Lanka police officer reported that Muslim groups in eastern Sri Lanka have been visited by Pakistani organizers, and that Muslim youths have attended camps in Sri Lanka with names like Jihad, Ossama, Sadam, etc. These camps teach self-defense, but are not known to train in use of firearms, he said. He further reported that some Sri Lankan Muslims have left Sri Lanka to fight in jihads abroad. Others are sent to Saudi Arabia to work or attend college.
At the time this police officer disclosed these information in June 2004 there was one NGO in Sri Lanka that helps fund these activities was the Saudi-based World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY), headed - at that time - locally by a Sudanese national named Omar Idris DIRAR.
He had suggested to the American officials that the primary reason for Muslim militancy in Sri Lanka is to defend Muslims against Tamil (LTTE) aggression in the east. He outlined that the Sri Lankan Muslim Congress was supported by the loosely organized Islamic Unity Foundation (IUF). The IUF has about 125 core members and has military, intelligence, religious, and political wings.
He reminded the embassy officials that the political wing leader, Mohamed Ameer ALI, was elected to Parliament in the April (2004) elections under the SLMC.
In addition, he advised the IUF is believed to have weapons obtained from a variety of sources, including a substantial cache bought/seized from deposed LTTE rebel leader Karuna during his recent retreat from the Batticaloa area. Weapons have also reportedly been smuggled in from India.
He said he believed IUF members have received military training in the Kashmir region of India and may have fought there. The former Sri Lanka intelligence officer attached to the DII has also suggested to the Americans that this group has a connection to Indian underworld figure Dawood Ibrahim. He did not believe Muslim militancy is focused on targeting U.S.
In the eastern Trincomalee District, he - during this dialogue with American officers in June 2004 - identified three primary groups organized to defend Muslims against the LTTE in the region: the Knox group (named after a revered Englishman), Osama group, and Jetty (primarily harbor workers). These groups have the backing of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress, he disclosed. In the eastern Ampara District, he identified the Mujahadeen group, comprising 150 armed members, as being stronger even than the Osama group in Trincomalee.
The RSO had inquired at this June 2004 meeting that took place within the American embassy from the former Sri Lanka police officer about one newly arrived tenant in the low-rent commercial office space located directly across the street from the U.S. Embassy: the Ministry of Eastern Development and Muslim Religious Affairs, headed by newly elected Muslim Minister ATHAULLA. He had explained that one of the primary missions of this Muslim-based Ministry is to support development of Muslims in the east.
Source indicated that DII maintains a list of Muslim NGOs operating in Sri Lanka which have international links.
Following the dialogue between the American Embassy officials and the former DII official, the diplomatic mission came in possession of a list of Muslim NGOs operating in Sri Lanka with international connections.
During this time -June 2004 when the American diplomatic mission in Colombo engaged in monitoring Muslim political trends - it had very little insight into the veiled world of Muslim militancy in eastern Sri Lanka and the information provided by the former the former DII official was considered just one part of a vast puzzle that makes up the cultural/political/religious melting pot of Sri Lanka.
Colombo's American diplomatic post believed in 2004 what Muslim militancy exists in Sri Lanka is directed toward defending against Tamil (LTTE) aggression in the east. As Tamil-on-Tamil and Tamil-on-Muslim violence continues in the form of assassinations, extortion, and intimidation, Muslim militancy may escalate, the American diplomats stationed in Colombo believed at that time.
- Asian Tribune –