A Sri Lankan software engineer suspected by authorities in Sri Lanka of having provided technical and logistical support to the Easter Sunday suicide bombers was monitored by Indian intelligence agencies three years ago for links with Islamic State suspects, investigators said, according to the Reuters news agency.
Four sources in Sri Lankan investigating agencies said they believed Aadhil Ameez, a 24-year-old, was the link between two groups that carried out the attacks on churches and hotels that killed more than 250 people and wounded hundreds more.
Aadhil has been arrested and is in police custody, the sources said. His arrest has not been made public, but when asked by Reuters, Ruwan Gunasekera, the main spokesman for the Sri Lankan police, confirmed Aadhil was taken into custody on April 25, four days after the attacks.
The spokesman declined to give more details.
A police official at India’s National Investigation Agency (NIA) and another police official in the western state of Gujarat said they were providing assistance to Sri Lankan authorities.
Aadhil, who describes himself on his LinkedIn profile as a senior engineer/programmer/web designer with a masters degree in computer science and a bachelors in political science from U.K. universities, could not be reached for comment.
He does not yet have a lawyer and under Sri Lanka’s tough new emergency laws imposed after the attacks, he can be held indefinitely.
His father, M. Ameez, who lives in Aluthgama, a town south of Colombo, denied that Aadhil was involved with the plotters and said such “allegations are lies”.
The Indian investigators said they had been monitoring Aadhil since 2016 and named him in two chargesheets filed in Indian courts against suspected Islamic State operatives as being one of their contacts.
According to one of the chargesheets, reviewed by Reuters, he showed up in Facebook, WhatsApp and Telegram chats with two of the suspects who are on trial for plotting an attack on a synagogue in the western city of Ahmedabad.
The two suspects Ubed Ahmad Mirza, a lawyer, and Stimberwala Mohamed Kasim, a hospital technician, were accused of planning “lone-wolf” attacks, according to the chargesheet.
Lawyers for both men rejected the allegations and said they were innocent. Both lawyers declined to comment on the possible role of Aadhil.
Aadhil has also been named in another chargesheet filed in court by the NIA for providing propaganda and online material to three Indians arrested in early 2016 for promoting Islamic State.
The three men, Sheikh Azhar ul-Islam, Adnan Hassan and Mohammed Rafiq Sadique Shaikh are on trial in a special Delhi court facing charges of criminal conspiracy to propagate the ideology of Islamic State, recruit, raise funds and facilitate the travel of people to Syria, according to the chargesheet.
Sheikh Mohammad Munawar, a cousin of ul-Islam, said the charges were fabricated and that he had no criminal record ever.
Families of the other two accused could not be reached. Their lawyers were not immediately available for comment.
Reuters was unable to determine when the Indians informed Sri Lankan authorities of the surveillance. The two officials declined to say whether they continued to keep Aadhil under surveillance after they completed investigation of the cases in India.
Indian intelligence services warned Sri Lankan authorities of a possible attack at least three times in April alone, officials have said.
Sri Lankan authorities have said two local Islamist groups – the National Tawheed Jamaath (NTJ) led by radical preacher Zahran Hashim and the Jamathei Millathu Ibrahim (JMI) – were involved in the synchronized blasts in Colombo, the island nation’s capital, and two other towns. Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attacks.
Two sources in Sri Lanka’s police Criminal Investigation Department and two military officials said Aadhil was the link between the two groups.
The groups used the dark web and WhatsApp to communicate, they said.
However, investigators don’t know yet whether Aadhil was simply a facilitator for the bombers, or if he was also one of the ring leaders involved in planning and executing the attacks.
Last week, police raided IT firm Virtusa, where Aadhil had interned in 2013, according to his profile. One current employee has been detained for questioning in connection with the attacks, police say, but no other details have been provided.