A US terrorism report says Sri Lankan security forces and intelligence agencies were on full alert against the possibility of ISIS or its affiliates emerging in the country.
The annual Country Reports on Terrorism 2016 said that in January last year, then Defense Secretary Karunasena Hettiarachchi noted reports of approximately 36 Sri Lankans who traveled to Syria, with some joining ISIS, but he asserted ISIS and other terrorist groups were not physically present in Sri Lanka.
The report released by the US State Department said that counterterrorism cooperation and training with the United States in 2016 was limited, but the bilateral security and defense relationship continued to grow.
“An advanced U.S. P-8 maritime patrol aircraft with long-range maritime patrol capabilities conducted an exercise in December with the Sri Lanka Air Force and Navy on safe-guarding the international shipping lanes. This training also enhanced the government’s capacity to interdict potential foreign terrorist fighters attempting to transit through the country,” the report added.
The report says the security services’ in Sri Lanka focus on a possible LTTE resurgence and the Government’s new focus on emerging threats, such as reports of Sri Lankan foreign terrorist fighters joining ISIS and other terrorist groups, led the Government to maintain a flexible counterterrorism policy.
In November, Minister of Justice Wijedayasa Rajapakshe announced to parliament that approximately 32 well-educated Sri Lankan Muslims of four families had joined ISIS in Syria. His statement sparked controversy within the Muslim community in Sri Lanka. (Colombo Gazette)