On February 6th, an underworld drug kingpin of Sri Lanka, Makandure Madush, and 20 others were arrested in Dubai. Initially this was looked at as a mere case of a drug smuggler’s arrest, who was trapped after a tip-off by a rival. Three months later, this arrest appears to be part of a jigsaw puzzle, which might help in solving the suicide bombing attacks that rocked Sri Lanka, on the day of Easter, 21st April. Coordination between few Asian countries can possibly help whittle down the growth of terrorist organization, ISIS, in the region.
ISIS’s hide and seek game in Sri Lanka
ISIS has claimed responsibility for the suicide attacks on Sri Lankan Churches and hotels, which killed about 253 people and injured close to 500. Among those dead were 45 children as confirmed by UNICEF. ISIS’s empire in Sri Lanka was not built overnight, or without the knowledge of Sri Lankan authorities. ISIS had dropped its roots in the island country long ago. Since sometime, Sri Lankan authorities had been on tenterhooks, for ISIS had cocked-a-snook at them on several occasions.
On January 17th, populace of Sri Lanka woke up to the news that 100kg of explosives were seized from the sleepy hamlet of Lacktowatta, Wanathawilluwa. The place is situated 200 kms away from Sri Lankan capital city, Colombo, where the suicide bombings took place 5 days ago. Officers of Sri Lankan Criminal investigation department (CID), who were investigating vandalizing of Buddha statues in one of the Sri Lankan city, had stumbled upon an ISIS training camp in Lacktowatta, which was being run surreptitiously within Sri Lanka. But Sri Lankan minister Kabir Hashim has confessed that after 3 months of incarceration, the suspects were released when a high profile politician managed to successfully use his influence.
Despite the Government of Sri Lanka cracking its whip on terrorist organizations within the country, and the vigilant CID department working on the case, a tunnel-visioned approach, prevented them from seeing the bigger picture. The ISIS training camp at Lacktowatta, was being funded by a drug lord who had fled the country 2 years ago.
Drugs and terrorism
Narcoterrorism has been a menace in Asia. In South East Asia Rodrigo Duterte, President of Philippines is fighting a brutal war against drug lords, and within the Indian sub-continent, state of Punjab, is one of the worst hit by the illegal trade of drugs, through the porous borders that India shares with its neighbours. Drug trafficking and terrorist activities oft go hand-in-hand; the island country of Sri Lanka is a witness to it.
Samarasinghe Arachchige Madush Lakshitha, alias “Makandure Madush”, is a druglord from Sri Lanka who had been on Interpol’s blue notice since December 2018, due to his involvement in myriads of high profile killings within the country. He had fled the country few months ago, and ergo CID had approached Interpol to issue a notice against him.
Madush’s crimes are not merely related to drug trafficking, he was also involved in supplying *C-4 explosives and weapons to ISIS training camp within Sri Lanka. He had apparently taken many ex-LTTE members under his wings, which helped him utilize experienced and well trained criminal army to his advantage.
*C-4 explosives are RDX explosives with plasticizers, which have a very high cutting ability. Due to its malleability and cutting ability, it can be used for blowing up major buildings.
It was Madush’s friend turned foe, Kalu Sagara, who had alerted the authorities in Dubai and Sri Lanka, that the druglord might try to enter UAE, to attend his son’s birthday party in the month of February. The authorities had to patiently wait for Madush and his accomplices to walk into the trap, and finally on February 6th Dubai police confirmed his arrest, along with 20 others. The list of arrested people involved few elites, like singer Amal Parera and his son, Nadimal.
Druglord, plot to assassinate Sri Lankan President and Indian connection
In the month of October 2018, a pandemonium was created across the region when a plot to assassinate President of Sri Lanka, Maithripala Sirisena, was exposed. Among the many dominos which fell as a result of this news included name of DIG Nalaka de Silva, former director of Terrorism Investigation Division (TID). Ostensibly, CID of Sri Lanka had claimed that DIG Silva was in close association with singer Amal Parera, a close friend and associate of Madush. The former director of TID was arrested immediately after the plot was brought to light by a social activist, Namal Kumara. The case is still under investigation.
Whilst the Sri Lankan authorities were busy digging into the assassination plot, certain section of media within India claimed that Indian spy agency, RAW (Research & Analysis Wing), could be adding fuel to fire in Sri Lanka. The President of Sri Lanka was quick to cut this disinformation campaign against India at its knees, and made a public statement stating that the campaign was done to sabotage bilateral ties between the two countries.
Singer Amal Parera
Capper is, while India and Sri Lanka were trying to curb the swirling rumors on social media, Madush was working in tandem with Dawood Ibrahim, a drug dealer and underworld mobster from India, who now, apparently, lives in Pakistan. Other than this, Madush has some direct links to India; a year ago, during one of the raids, Police special investigation unit had found Kerala Ganja worth Sri Lankan Rs 2 million at one of Madush’s associate’s places in Angoda. Police had then revealed that to avoid arrest, Angoda Lokka, had fled to India. Indian authorities and their Sri Lankan counterparts can snap the backbone of the illegal drug trade in the region, if they work shoulder to shoulder. But the communication gap between the agencies is as clear as day, after the Sri Lankan suicide blasts.
Weeks before the suicide attacks in Colombo, NIA of India had arrested Faiz, an ISIS member, who was tasked to carry out attacks in Delhi. The information gleaned by NIA during Faiz’s interrogation, was later passed on to Sri Lankan agencies. But alas, the lackadaisical attitude in handling the sensitive information, did nothing to save the innocent lives.
The Pakistani Angle
As early as 2008, Sri Lanka was being assisted by China and Pakistan to fight against the terrorist organization, LTTE. Subsequently, Pakistan began exporting its most potent weapon to Sri Lanka, expendable pawns of its spy agency, ISI. By “virtue” of Pakistan’s relations with India, Sri Lanka soon became the shoulder from which Pakistan could shoot off its bullets at India. In 2014, NIA (National investigation Agency, India) had unearthed, ISI’s intention to attack Indian nuclear facilities, along with US and Israeli embassies in India. The man who came on NIA’s crosshair in relation to this case was a Pakistani diplomat— Amir Zubair Siddiqui. He was part of Pakistani High commission in Colombo, and was involved in training of Sri Lankan nationals, to carry out terror attacks in India.
Circled in the pic–Amir Zubair Siddiqui, Pakistani diplomat cum spy
Zubair, may not be directly involved in Sri Lankan suicide bombing which took place on 21stApril, but he was definitely involved in sowing the seeds of radicalization in the island country of Sri lanka. Latest news emerging from Sri lanka, points a finger towards Pakistan, even as ISIS claims the complete responsibility for the attack. As per Pakistani media house, Dawn, almost 7 Pakistanis have been detained in Sri lanka, after the blasts.
ISIS, the hired goon
It’s a well-known fact that terrorist organizations are used, covertly, by those who can afford them, to look after the customer’s business interests. Albeit, the foot soldiers of terrorists organization and the gullible populace are fed on religious propaganda. When gleaned, one can find that ISIS had no strong reason to attack Sri lanka; neither is Sri Lanka part of any anti-coalition group against ISIL, nor is it a country with a high Christian population. Infact at 9.7 %, Sri lanka’s Christian population is tad bit higher than the Muslim population, which is about 7% of the total population of the country. Ergo the claim that this attack was done to avenge Christchurch attack, is impetuous to say the least. Going by the diligent work needed to carry out such a coordinated attack, at myriads of Churches and luxury hotels, simultaneously, we can safely assume that planning for attacks on Easter was, done before Christchurch attack took place. This has also been established by the Prime Minister’s statement.
With its pool of funds drying, ISIS, is in a do or die situation to re-establish itself. A plausible explanation is– for a third party, ISIS carried out the attacks in Sri Lanka or may be just lend it’s name to an operation already planned by a different state. The consequences of which would lead the jaunty business of tourism in the country to plummet. Sri lanka’s economy which has been heavily invested in the tourism industry is bound to be on crutches as an aftermath of the attack. And it will be an arduous feat for the government of Sri lanka to pull the already debt ridden economy, forward. The debt-trap will push Sri Lankan economy into a rabbit-hole. This sinister strategy could very well be the real intention behind ISIS’s attacks in Sri Lanka.
Yes, there has been a colossal intelligence lapse on behalf of Sri Lankan agencies, which turned a blind eye towards the intelligence shared by both India & America vis-à-vis the suicide attacks. But then the fact is– there have been sporadic prompt actions against terrorist organizations and drug dealers in the recent past. This proves, Sri Lankan Government’s real issue lies, in not being able to function as a well-oiled machinery. The lack of coordination is evident! Was this intentional? Was a very influential country trying to block Sri Lanka’s agencies or at least few authorities in the higher echelons from thwarting a deadly attack? Which country would like to see Sri lanka debt ridden or permanently trapped in a quick sand of collapsing economy? Not hard to guess.
Sri Lankan government should get on its toes to extradite Makandure Madush, the underworld drug kingpin, with links to both ISIS and other inimical external foreign agencies. As brusque as it may sound, assassination of the President, to stifling Sri Lankan economy’s current progress, does bring certain political advantage to few individuals within the country, and plethora of opportunities for business negotiations by hawk-eyed external players. But then will Sri Lanka, show the spunk to expose them? Few things are always easier said than done.
This article written by Levina Neythiri.