Jameel Bombed Tropical Inn Lodge in Dehiwala
By Buddhika Samaraweera
After a failed attempt to carry out the suicide bombing at Taj Samudra Hotel in Colombo on 21 April 2019, Easter Sunday, Abdul Latheef Mohamed Jameel, blew himself up at the Tropical Inn Lodge in Dehiwala. He had been identified as a religious extremist, long before the bombings, and there was much speculation on the failure of the suicide bombing at Taj Samudra Hotel. The Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) has examined the events of this incident and set out conclusions in its final report.
To have a better understanding of the events at Taj Samudra Hotel and later at Tropical Inn Lodge, Dehiwala, the PCoI has closely examined the movements of Jameel from 20 April 2019 to the time of the explosion at Tropical Inn on 21 April 2019.
Jameel left his house in Wellampitiya on 19 April 2019 at 9:50 p.m. His wife Fathima Shifana Omarkattha testified before the PCoI that Jameel informed her that he was going on a Jamaat pilgrimage. He came to a restaurant at Dharmapala Mawatha, Colombo 3 around 10:12 p.m., where he ordered several parcels of food and stayed until 10:37 p.m. to receive the order. He then proceeded to the safe house at Paratta Road, Panadura.
On 20 April, Jameel left the safe house in Panadura at 10:50 a.m. in a taxi and came to Span Tower at 41, Templers Road, Mount Lavinia around 11:53 a.m. which was also a safe house. He left the premises around 4:32 p.m. and arrived at Taj Samudra Hotel around 4:52 p.m.
Jameel checked in at 4:54 p.m. giving the name Mohamed Jameel and gave his address as No. 49, Welamboda, Kandy. Since he was a walk-in guest, the receptionist checked with the Duty Manager, who had approved the booking. He had asked for a room for one day with breakfast and was given room No. 365. Around 5:44 p.m., he leaves the hotel empty-handed and gets into a white colour car (CAP-2828 Honda Vezel) and leaves the hotel. He arrives at the safe house at Paratta Road, Panadura around 6:30 p.m. Shortly thereafter around 7:00 p.m. Jameel leaves the Panadura house and reaches Span Tower in a van bearing No. PJ-4080 around 7:33 p.m. and spends the night there.
On 21 April, Jameel leaves Span Tower around 6:38 a.m. and arrives at Taj Samudra at 7:07 a.m. Around 8:48 a.m., he comes out of the room with a travelling bag and backpack. He goes down to the restaurant and keeps the travelling bag outside the restaurant and enters with the backpack. He first goes near the tables where the food is stacked. The time is around 8:49 a.m. and his exact actions during this period are not captured in any CCTV footage.
Jameel sits on a chair in the restaurant at around 8:51 a.m. and takes the backpack he is wearing onto his lap and begins to check the outside. Shortly thereafter, there appears to be an incoming call on his phone. It is not clear what type of call or who the caller is. But the PCoI observed that the call was received after Jameel started checking his backpack.
Soon after, he leaves the restaurant and goes out of the hotel. On his way out, he leaves the travelling bag he had kept outside the restaurant by mistake and a hotel staff member comes up and gives it to him. He walks out of the premises and comes onto Galle Road.
Around 8:55 a.m. Jameel hails a three-wheeler and proceeds towards Dehiwala. The three-wheeler driver’s testimony was that Jameel had told him to proceed towards Dehiwala. On the way Jameel had directed him to stop near Wellawatte. After getting off near Commercial Bank Wellawatte, he then walked towards a bus halt.
Jameel goes to Tropical Inn Lodge in a three-wheeler and its driver testified before the PCoI that on 21 April morning he had got a hire to a private hospital to take a patient from Dehiwala to Wellawatte. After he finished the hire, he took a U-turn at Wellawatte Junction, as he wanted to get back to Dehiwala. There was a bus halt and Jameel got into the three-wheeler, saying he wanted to go to a hotel near the Zoo.
The driver knew Tropical Inn Lodge, since he had taken passengers there earlier. He took Jameel there around 9:25 a.m. and introduced Jameel to the caretaker of the Inn, Sumith Wijelal and left. Wijelal testified before the PCoI that he opened the hotel around 9:25 a.m. when the three-wheeler driver brought Jameel, who had chosen an air-conditioned room and paid the fee. Jameel had carried two bags, one of which was a backpack. The National Identity Card of Jameel was taken by Wijelal and kept in a drawer. Jameel informed that he would stay there until the following morning. Jameel then left the reception and entered the room with his bags. After some time, Jameel had left the room and gone out without anything in his hand.
CCTV footage shows Jameel coming out of Tropical Inn Lodge around 9:35 a.m. He passes a shop at Hill Street around 9:38 a.m. and is seen getting into a green colour three-wheeler at around 9:40 a.m.
Jameel initially arrives at the mosque at Ebenezer Place around 9:51 a.m. and goes inside. Around 10:03 a.m. he comes out of the mosque, goes to Galle Road, and takes a three-wheeler. He proceeds towards Colombo for some time, turns to Ramakrishna Road, and comes back to the mosque through Marine Drive. Around 10:20 a.m. he goes back inside the mosque and sits on the floor. At 10:23 a.m. he gets up and goes out of the mosque. He returns at 10:29 a.m. and around 10:34 a.m. he is seen looking at someone’s phone with a group of persons. Again around 10:50 a.m. he is seen watching a phone of an unknown person.
Around 11:24 a.m. he is seen sitting on the steps of the mosque and a person makes some inquiry from him around 11:30 a.m. Jameel leaves the mosque again at 12:05 p.m. and is seen coming back at 12:15 p.m. and praying. Around 12:24 p.m. a person speaks to him and a minute later Jameel leaves the mosque, but comes back at 12:26 p.m. and starts praying again. Jameel leaves the mosque again at 12:41 p.m. and goes back in at 12:42 p.m. Fifteen minutes later he comes out of the mosque again and waits outside the mosque when he is confronted by one Ameer around 1:23 p.m.
Ameer was the Operations Manager of a private security firm at Soma Thalagala Mawatha, Delkanda, Nugegoda. Before that he served as a Police Constable and resigned in 2004. He went to the mosque at Ebenezer Place around 12:45 p.m. since his superior informed that security must be employed to that mosque. After having examined the premises, he came out of the mosque with the administrative officer of the mosque, when they observed an argument between a group of around five persons and Jameel.
Ameer went to the place and inquired the reason for the argument. The group of persons said Jameel had been inside the mosque for a long time and that they did not know him and as such they had asked Jameel to leave, at which point an argument had occurred. It was mentioned that Jameel had not even showed the NIC. Ameer informed everyone that due to the situation in the country they are going to close the mosque. Ameer then spoke to Jameel and made inquiries, at which point Jameel questioned whether Ameer was from the Police. Jameel was questioned by Ameer around 1:23 p.m. outside the mosque.
Ameer then showed Jameel an identity card he received from Interpol during his days in the Police. Jameel then gave his driving licence. Ameer realised Jameel was from Kandy and asked him what he was doing in Colombo. Then Ameer wanted to call Jameel’s house to check on the veracity of the details provided by him.
Ameer then called Jameel’s wife Omarkattha on his own mobile phone and obtained details of Jameel. The wife informed that he had left the house due to a disagreement. Ameer obtained the details of Omarkattha and recorded all in the book he had. After satisfying himself of the identity of Jameel and his wife Omarkattha, he allowed Jameel to leave.
Then Jameel got into a three-wheeler and he told the driver to proceed towards Galle Road. Once they were on Galle Road he had instructed him to proceed towards Kalubowila Hospital side and continued to direct him with hand signals. After some time, he directed the driver to stop and got off. This version of events was confirmed by the testimony of the driver Mohamed Nilwan.
After about three minutes of Jameel’s leaving, Ameer received another call from the same number as of Omarkattha. Ameer was informed by a man in Tamil to detain Jameel as they want to come and pick him up due to the family dispute. Ameer informed him that he could not do so as he has other work to do and that in any event Jameel had left the place.
Ameer then went on his errands and around 5:00 p.m., received a call from an unknown number and was informed that it was from the Intelligence Division of the Ministry of Defence. The voice was the same voice of the person who spoke to him in Tamil after Jameel left from Ebenezer Place. Ameer was asked to come to the Wellawatte Police Station. There he met the person and realised that they were from the Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI).
The call records of Ameer and Omarkattha are compatible with the narration of events of Ameer. The PCoI summoned several officials from the DMI and their testimony was that the DMI was keeping Jameel under surveillance from around 2016 for his extremist ideology. In fact, due to the information that was provided by the DMI, Jameel was questioned by the Terrorist Investigation Division (TID) in April 2018. Soon after the explosions in Colombo and suburbs, acting on instructions, the DMI operatives went to the house of Jameel at Lansiyawatta, Dematagoda to check on his whereabouts and that is when they were told by Omarkattha that Jameel was at Ebenezer Place. The DMI operatives then called Ameer and tried to locate Jameel, by which time he had left the mosque.
The PCoI heard evidence of all relevant parties and concludes that the events as narrated by Ameer and the DMI officials reflect the true state of facts. On the available evidence, there is no evidence of Jameel meeting any intelligence operatives before the blast at the Tropical Inn (former IGP Pujith Jayasundara, testifying before the PCoI, said Jameel had met an Intelligence official before the bombings on 21 April 2019).
The PCoI sought expert evidence from a retired Government Analyst on the actions of Jameel at Taj Samudra and later at the Tropical Inn. He was questioned as to whether there is a possibility for the blast not to take place at first when an attempt is made and to happen after about four hours. The expert’s opinion was that it is possible, if the detonator used was of inferior quality or if there was a defect in the circuit such as not being properly connected, or if the battery was not connected correctly.
If there was any person or group desiring to kill Jameel with a remote-controlled bomb, surely they would not have waited for more than four hours from the initial blasts in the churches and hotels. During this period, Jameel freely travelled in at least two trishaws and checked into Tropical Inn with the bag carrying the explosives. There was no explosion up to that time.
Jameel was one of the prime actors in the attack and was privy to many details. Why would the person or group desiring to kill Jameel with a remote-controlled bomb, wait for such a long time to activate the bomb? If Jameel was given a signal to withdraw from the attack, why was he allowed to freely move about with his knowledge of the plans? A group that had planned so precisely for the attack would surely have a plan to evict the suicide bombers from the sites without any third party intervention in the event they had planned previously to abort the attack.
However, CCTV footage seen by the PCoI shows that Jameel walked out of Taj Samudra Hotel and tried to hail a three-wheeler. Several three-wheelers passed by without stopping. However, after some time he got into a three-wheeler and got off in Wellawatte.
Thereafter, he hailed another three-wheeler and asked its driver to go towards Dehiwala. On the way, he asked the three-wheeler driver whether there was lodging close to the Zoo. The trishaw driver knew of the Tropical Inn Lodge, as he had previously taken customers to that place. That is how Jameel came to Tropical Inn.
Later, he walked along the main roads in Dehiwala and Wellawatte and went to the Mosque in Wellawatte and came back to Tropical Inn. There was heightened security and alertness, as evidence from the incident involving Ameer and Jameel at the mosque in Wellawatte, after the morning blasts. It is inconceivable that a group as organised as it to carry out the attack would have given Jameel the freedom he was given up to the time of the blast at the Tropical Inn.