National Thowheed Jamath: The Group Blamed For Sri Lanka Serial Blasts

Sri Lanka Blasts: The National Thowheed Jamath or the National Thowheeth Jama'ath, as it is sometimes also known, has earlier been linked to vandalizing Buddhist statues.

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New Delhi: 

A little-known group, the National Thowheed Jamath or NTJ has been accused of carrying out the serial bomb blasts in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday. The blasts which have killed around 290 people and injured more than 500, are now considered to be the worst the country has experienced.

The NTJ, which is a radical Islamist group, however, has very little presence in the island nation. The Muslim minority in Sri Lanka comprises only 9.7 per cent of the country's population, reported  news agency PTI.

The National Thowheed Jamath or the National Thowheeth Jama'ath, as it is sometimes also known, has earlier been linked to vandalizing Buddhist statues, reported AFP.

The group came into the limelight when, months after the riots involving Sri Lanka's Buddhists and Muslim minorities, the group was accused of attacking Buddhist statues in Sri Lanka's Kegalle, reported AFP. The act led to outrage in the Buddhist community.

Harin Fernando, the Sri Lankan telecommunications minister, tweeted a document reportedly sent by the country's police chief earlier this month, said a PTI report.

The document names NJT and issues a warning saying the group was planning to attack the Indian High Commission and churches as well.

Authorities said links between the group and foreign backers are being investigated, according to AFP. The reasoning behind investigating this, authorities say, is that the magnitude of the attacks is too large for a small group to have carried out.

"The intelligence sections have reported that there are international terror groups which are behind the local terrorists," a statement from President Maithripala Sirisena said.

The NJT's social media presence in Sri Lanka is also said to be miniscule, reports PTI. Their Facebook and Twitter pages are rarely updated. Their Twitter page was last updated at March last year and their Facebook page only posts updates in weeks, according to PTI. The NJT's website is also offline.

The report from Sri Lanka's top police officer named the NJT's leader, Mohamed Zahran. The NJT's secretary Abdul Razik has also been arrested several times for inciting communal unrest.

In 2016, after an incident of a Buddhist statue being vandalized, the head of a radical Buddhist group threatened a "blood bath" unless Razik was arrested.

In January, AFP reports, Sri Lankan authorities had found 100 kg of high explosives and 100 detonators near a remote wildlife park. Four Muslim radicals had been detained then, but there had been no accusation against a group.

Nearly 24 people have been arrested for the Sri Lankan bombings, the targets of which were churches and hotels in and around the capital Colombo.

(With Inputs From PTI And AFP)



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