One of the masterminds behind the Sri Lanka suicide bombings lived in London and spent a year at Kingston University on an aerospace engineering course, The Telegraph can disclose.
The Islamic State terrorist, named today as Abdul Lathief Jameel Mohamed, spent a year at the university in south west London in the academic year 2006 to 2007, according to well-placed sources, before travelling to Melbourne in Australia for a postgraduate course.
Sri Lanka’s defence minister, Ruwan Wijewardene, told a media briefing earlier on Wednesday that…there were nine suicide bombers in total – mostly well educated and from well-to-do families. Eight had been identified and one of them was a woman, he said.
“This group of suicide bombers, most of them are well educated and come from middle or upper-middle class, so they are financially quite independent and their families are quite stable financially,” Wijewardene said “That is a worrying factor in this. Some of them have I think studied in various other countries, they hold degrees, LLMs [law degrees], they’re quite well educated people.”
Intelligence agents are now combing through connections made in the UK to examine whether he could have been radicalised in this country – and whether he could have been in contact with jihadists at that time.
In 2015, David Cameron, when prime minister, ‘named and shamed’ Kingston among four universities which he alleged had hosted the most events with extremist speakers. The naming of Kingston followed a study by the Government’s newly established Extremism Analysis Unit.
The claim was vehemently contested by Kingston, which insisted that it was ‘highly unlikely’ students were being radicalised. Last night Kingston declined to comment on Jameel Mohamed’s time at the university.
It is not clear when Jameel Mohamed took up the cause of violent extremism, pledging allegiance to Islamic State in a martyr video made public in the days after the Sri Lankan attacks. A source said: “We are looking at the timings of his stay in the UK and the significance of any travel here. We are looking at all his links.”
The former Kingston University student’s expertise in aerospace and mechanical engineering will inevitably raise questions over whether he could have been the chief bomb-maker involved in the operation. It may also explain why he was not involved in the first wave of attacks and that he acted after the net began closing in. Jameel Mohamed is thought to have died in the blast at the Tropical Inn in Dehiwala, a suburb in Colombo, in a second wave of suicide bombings on Easter Sunday. Two people were killed when he detonated the bomb at the guesthouse near the zoo, five hours after the first wave.
Despite the scale of the security operation, Sri Lanka’s prime minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, warned that several suspects armed with explosives had yet to be found. Wickremesinghe said there were more explosives and militants “out there”, and confirmed reports there had been a failed attack against a fourth major hotel, and that the Indian embassy was also a possible target.
The Telegraph on Wednesday tracked down the bomb factory to a rented bungalow on the outskirts of Colombo. Police told this newspaper they had found evidence of large numbers of discarded cartons of ball bearings, which had been used to pack the bombs to maximise the carnage.
At least four of the bombers had rented the safe house in the quiet Sarikkamulla suburb south of Colombo to lie low in the weeks before the blasts and ready their bombs. Police said they had found 240 empty packets of quarter inch steel balls in the house as well as mobile phones and different vehicle licence plates.