Counter Terrorism Perspectives: CTP

MLM: "Mentor, Provocateur or Mastermind? Understanding Naufar Moulavi’s Role in Sri Lanka’s Easter Sunday Attack"

February 06, 2021

In early January 2021, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that three foreign nationals – Muhammed Naufar (also, Naufar Moulavi), Muhammed Riskan and Ahamed Milhan – had been charged with conspiring to provide material support to Islamic State (IS), a designated foreign terrorist organization that claimed responsibility for the deadly April 2019 Easter Sunday violence in Sri Lanka (U.S. Department of Justice, January 8). Naufar Moulavi is one of the founding members of the IS-linked National Towheed Jamaat (NTJ). This local Salafi-jihadist group carried out the bombings at eight locations in Sri Lanka that day, including major churches and luxury hotels. The attacks claimed nearly 270 lives and injured more than 500 people, including foreign nationals, women and children. The NTJ’s Muhammad Zahran led the team of suicide bombers from a splinter group known as Jammiyat-ul Millathu Ibrahim (JMI), which carried out the mayhem. 

Some observers asked why Zahran, one of the founding leaders of the IS- linked NTJ, chose to die as a suicide bomber. Though the answer remains elusive, it is generally assumed that he may not have been the mastermind who inspired the group to carry out the attacks. As investigations into the attacks continued, information surfaced about the possible role of Naufar Moulavi, a brother-in-law and mentor of Zaharan and spiritual head of the NTJ. In late July 2020, Nilantha Jayawardena, the former director of the Sri Lanka’s State Intelligence Service (SIS), who was initially involved in the investigation, revealed to the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) probing the Easter Sunday attacks that the mastermind of the suicide bombings was not Zahran, but his mentor Muhammed Naufar the NTJ’s spiritual leader (Newsfirst, July 28, 2020; Mawbima, September 15, 2020).

For Complete Article (Subscription), Read, "Mentor, Provocateur or Mastermind? Understanding Naufar Moulavi’s Role in Sri Lanka’s Easter Sunday Attack", Militant Leadership Monitor (Jamestown Foundation),  VOL. XII (1), January 2021.