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Easter Sunday attacks: SJB demands to know who occupied rooms 616 and 623 while Zahran was on 6th floor

SJB spokesperson Mujibur Rahman on Sunday (21) alleged that attempts were being made to hide the identities of persons whom two Easter Sunday suicide bombers–– ringleader Zahran Hashim and his accomplice Ilham Ahamed, who blasted themselves at the Shangri-La Colombo on the morning of April 21, 2019––had met in the same hotel the previous day.

Addressing the media at the Opposition Leader’s Office, the former Colombo District UNP MP said that the two suicide bombers had stayed at a room on the sixth floor, on the night of 20 April.

At the time of the suicide blasts, Rahman was a member of the ruling UNP-led Yahapalana administration (2015-2019).

Rahman, who previously represented the UNP in Parliament, said he had got to know that the hotel refrained from disclosing the identities of those who occupied the room before Hashim and Ahamed moved in on the night of April 20, 2019.

The SJB official said that they got to know about the hotel’s failure to reveal the names of the guests after having examined the proceedings of the ongoing High Court of Colombo case that dealt with the Easter Sunday carnage.

Ilham Ahamed’s brother Mohamed Ibrahim Inshaf Ahamed carried out the suicide blast in the Cinnamon Grand hotel. Responding to The Island queries, Rahman said that comparison of Hashim’s DNA samples with that of his wife and daughter, apprehended a week later, following a confrontation with the Army at Sainthamaruthu, proved beyond any doubt that the ringleader had been killed in the Shangri-La blast.

According to Rahman, a comprehensive list of those who had stayed at the Shangri-La Colombo, during the period of two weeks before the day of the blasts, had been submitted to the Colombo High Court, sans information pertaining to room number 616.

Spice merchant Mohamed Yusuf Ibrahim is the father of Ilham Ahamed and Mohamed Ibrahim Inshaf Ahamed. His daughter-in-law detonated herself, killing three police personnel during a raid on their luxurious Dematagoda residence.

Rahman told the media briefing at the Opposition Leader’s Office that the identities of those who had stayed in another room, also on the sixth floor of Shangri-La hadn’t been revealed to the Colombo High Court.

Emphasising the responsibility on the part of the Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa government to reveal the truth, the ex-lawmaker said that those who stayed at room numbered 623, too, seemed to have been involved with the Zahran Hashim’s group. Rahman later told The Island that the Shangri-La management had prepared a comprehensive list of all guests at the hotel at the time of the blasts leaving out those who had stayed at 616 and 623 on the night of April 20, 2019. “We believe that there were some foreigners in room 623 whereas Zahran Hashim’s accomplices in Room 616 were a mystery,” the ex-MP said.

Rahman said that the government or perhaps the Attorney General’s Department owed the public an explanation as to why two senior retired police officers, Senior DIG Ravi Seneviratne and SSP Shani Abeysekera, who the spearheaded investigations into the Easter Sunday carnage, had not been listed as witnesses. Similarly, DIG Nalaka de Silva, who headed the Terrorist Investigation Division (TID), which had been tasked with inquiring into the clandestine activities of the National Thowheed Jamaath (NTJ), during Yahapalana regime, in the run-up to the Easter Sunday blasts, had also been left out of the list of witnesses, Rahman said.

The former lawmaker recalled the circumstances under which the CID arrested de Silva over unsubstantiated allegations pertaining to an alleged conspiracy to assassinate the then President Maithripala Sirisena and wartime Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa, on Oct 25, 2018, the day before President Sirisena sacked the then Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe.

At the time of the Easter Sunday blasts, de Silva had been behind bars; he was granted bail in May 2019.

The former TID head now serves as DIG Puttalam.

The ex-MP urged the government to come out clean during a three-day parliamentary debate on the Easter Sunday attacks, scheduled to be held this week (Wednesday to Friday).

Ex-MP Rahman claimed that inquiries made by his party revealed that there was a certain category of people who could have booked hotel rooms without being registered. Among them were diplomats, their security contingents, Defence personnel and members of intelligence services. It would be the responsibility of the government to set the record straight. The ex-MP said that the government could correct him if he was wrong.

 Rahman said that the desperate bid to hide the identities of those who met the suicide bombers at Shangri-La underscored their belief that there was an influential and very powerful hand behind the Easter Sunday attacks.

Rahman reiterated SJB and Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa’s recent declaration that a through investigation would be conducted into the Easter Sunday carnage if the SJB won the upcoming presidential election.

By Shamindra Ferdinando/The Island

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