National Thowheeth Jamaath
Established By: Unknown
Also Known As: National Monotheism Organization
Country Of Origin: Sri Lanka
Leaders: Moulvi Zahran Hashim (believed dead)
Key Members: Moulvi Zahran Hashim (believed dead)
Operational Area: Sri Lanka
Number Of Members: 100–150
Involved In: Suicide bombings, Car bombings, Armed Attacks, Vandalism, Religious Violence
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National Thowheeth Jama’ath is a Sri Lankan jihadist group implicated in the 2019 Sri Lanka Easter bombings. It is believed to have ties with Islamic State. President Maithripala Sirisena banned National Thowheed Jamath on 27 April 2019 and designated it as a terrorist organisation as well as Jammiyathul Millathu Ibrahim.
The group promotes an “Islamist terrorist ideology”. The director of the International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism said that it “aims to spread the global jihadist movement to Sri Lanka and to create hatred, fear and divisions in society.”
The NJT believes that the world was made for Muslims and is against other religions. They also do not consider Sufis as Muslims believing them to be Kafirs that should be killed and have carried out attacks against Sufi mosques.
NTJ is believed to have separated from the Sri Lanka Thowheed Jamath (SLTJ), also a hardline Islamist organisation, in or around 2016. The NTJ’s leadership had been condemned by several Sri Lankan Muslim organisations in 2016 for advocating extreme fundamentalist indoctrination of children, and for clashes with Buddhist monks.
The group also terrorised the Sufi population in Kattankudy who were considered as Kafirs by extremists and according to Zahran all Kafirs must be killed according to Sharia law. Sufi mosques were shot and in 2017 Zahran led a mob wielding swords to attack Sufis. Despite complaints by Muslim organisations the government failed to take proper action against Zahran and the NTJ.
In 2018, NTJ was linked to vandalism of Buddhist statues following anti-Muslim riots in Sri Lanka. The group’s propaganda highlighted violence against Muslims in Myanmar, Sri Lanka, India and other countries.
Moulvi Zahran Hashim, a radical Islamist imam believed to be the mastermind behind the Sri Lanka bombings, preached on a pro-ISIL Facebook account, known as “Al-Ghuraba” media, and on YouTube.
Sri Lanka Easter bombing:
NTJ was first made known to the Sri Lankan police force when a police officer sent an announcement to the authorities warning about a possible attack on churches 10 days before the 2019 Sri Lanka Easter bombings on 21 April 2019. The report read that “the NTJ is planning to carry out suicide attacks targeting prominent churches as well as the Indian high commission in Colombo.”Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, remarked that government officials did not receive the advisory and that they would “look into why adequate precautions were not taken.”
After the attacks, the Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne confirmed at an 22 April 2019 press conference that all seven of the suicide bombers in the near-simultaneous attacks were Sri Lankan citizens associated with NTJ, but said that foreign links were suspected. Officials earlier blamed the local Islamist group, “National Tawhid”, but Al Jazeera correspondent Samer Allawi said the authorities had denied officially accusing the group of responsibility. Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has claimed responsibility for the attacks.
On 27 April 2019, Sri Lankan security forces and militants from National Thowheeth Jama’ath clashed after the security forces raided a safe house of the militants. Sixteen people, including six children, died during the raid as three cornered suicide bombers blew themselves up.
The organisation has pledged alleigence to ISIL, who released a video after the attacks through its AMAQ news agency showing eight men declaring loyalty to its leader, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdad, under the black ISIL flag.
According to State Defence Minister Ruwan Wijewardene the organisation is believed to have close ties with Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen India (JMI), the Indian unit of the Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh.