Seven suspected suicide bombers attacked three Christian churches and three five star hotels killing over 300 and injuring 400. It was the worst terrorist attack in the country since the end of the Tamil Tiger insurgency ten years earlier.
Sri Lankan Intelligence officials found possible links between suspected attackers and a Sri Lankan group National Thowheed Jamath (NTJ) who pledged their allegiance to the Islamic State. Islamic State own media reports revealed ait claimed responsibility for the attacks. Claiming that it was a“retaliation for the Christchurch attack”. Sixty Muslim worshippers were gunned down by a white terrorist in two mosques on March 18 in Christchurch n-New Zealand.
The Sri Lankan government also apologised for failing to act on an intelligence brief from India and US which had given a tip off that that the NTJ was preparing to carry out terrorist acts against churches. This crucial information was not passed on to the appropriate senior offices.
DRIVE TODAY ANALYSIS
- A peninsula of about 21 million, Muslims in Sri Lanka account for 10 percent of the population and are the second-largest minority after Hindus who number about 80 percent of the population with. Around seven percent of Sri Lankans is Christian. While overly peaceful for the last ten years small scale ethnic and religious tensions abound in the country with Muslims generally on the receiving end of sporadic violence and hate attacks from the majority Hindus.
- By their admission, Islamic State militants are entirely to blame in this grisly massacre; while the group lost its “caliphate” territory in Iraq and Syria last month, there are still fighters scattered globally looking for retaliation, mostly in the east. It is instructive that the group also claimed some minor attacks in Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan on the same day.
- Further, The Islamic State, which claimed the Easter morning attacks, cited “grievances” to justify their terrorism, which they apparently seek to portray as “retaliation.” Historically, Islamic extremist terror attacks targeting Christians during or around Easter are hardly uncommon; and they have never needed grievances” to attack Christians and other “infidels”. It IS also baffling if there is any connection between Sri Lankan Christians and the March 18 terrorist attack in New Zealand?
- IS remains a formidable force and is likely to appeal to people who have no one to defend them or if they threaten susceptible communities. Moving East is, therefore, an easy option considering that Asian communities have big Muslim communities who are perceived to be persecuted in one way or the other.
- One working theory following the sophistication and the coordinated nature of the attacks is that the NTJ got help from experienced foreign terrorists or at least from returning IS fighters.
- Powerful terrorist groups like IS know how to mobilise and exploit belief to divide people and take socio-political control. With the right support and the right funding, their violence is likely to remain powerful and sharing and acting on intelligence is likely to part of the solution to reduce their carnage.