Sri Lanka Bombings

Church Bomb Rubble

Sri Lanka Bombings

Attack on Christians, Tourists, and Humanity as a Whole

The recent massacre in Sri Lanka was a shocking and devastating incident which occurred on Easter Sunday, only last week. The motive of the suicide bombings are unknown, however, many people have been arrested and government officials believe these were coordinated attacks associated with a local militant Islamist group, National Thowheeth Jama’ath. It is alleged that some intelligence officers were aware of the threat however there was an issue in communicating this, and so a delay in action. The public now question: if the officials acted soon enough, could the lives of innocent people have been saved?

 

THE ATTACKS

On 21 April 2019, Easter Sunday, several cities in Sri Lanka were targeted and bombed.

Three churches across Sri Lanka were bombed during Easter services (Negombo, Batticaloa and Colombo) and luxury hotels (Shangri-La, Cinnamon Grand and Kingsbury) in the capital of Colombo were also targeted in a coordinated bombing. There were at least 310 people who have died in this attack, including Australians and at least 500 people were injured in the bombings. Government Officials believe that there were 7 suicide bombers who were associated with National Thowheeth Jama’ath. 40 people have been arrested in relation to this bombing.

Anne Speckhard, director of the International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism, told The New York Times: “These attacks appear to be quite different and look as if they came right out of the ISIS, al-Qaeda, global militant jihadist playbook, as these are attacks fomenting religious hatred by attacking multiple churches on a high religious holiday.” A Sri Lankan security official characterised it as a shell for the Islamic State.

Alan Keenan, Sri Lanka director for the International Crisis Group think tank told BBC 5Live that “We don’t see that only a small organisation in this country can do all that,” Mr Senaratne said. “We are now investigating the international support for them, and their other links, how they produced the suicide bombers here, and how they produced bombs like this.”

And while not naming the NTJ directly, the Sri Lankan president’s office echoed this belief that whichever group was behind the attacks had help from abroad.

 

NATIONAL THOWHEETH JAMA’ATH

Thowheeth Jamaath are a local militant Islamist group with suspected foreign ties, previously known for attacks against Buddhists. They been active in Kattankudy, an area in the eastern part of Sri Lanka and home to a large Muslim population. The group’s leadership is believed to be based there. A Sri Lankan security official characterised it as a shell for the Islamic State. The SITE Intelligence Group, which tracks extremist activity online, said that an unidentified Islamic State supporter distributed photos of three alleged “commandos” involved in the Sri Lanka attacks.

The photos were posted in pro-Islamic State chat rooms, and the men, pictured holding weapons in front of Islamic State banners, were described as “among the commando brothers in Sri Lanka” SITE said.

 

THE WARNING

Earlier on Monday, Sri Lanka’s Telecommunications Minister Harin Fernando took to Twitter with an image showing a purported intelligence memo warning of a terror attack, demanding to know why the warning was ignored. That document explicitly names the NTJ – as well as a warning that the group was planning to attack churches and the Indian High Commission. The document also names Mohamed Zahran, the group’s leader.

The memo was dated 11 April 2019 and was written in Sinhalese with some English, included a reference to National Thowheeth Jama’ath and named specific members.

“Some intelligence officers were aware of this incidence,” Mr Fernando wrote. “Serious action needs to be taken as to why this warning was ignored.”

Indian media on Monday reported that one of the men identified in the memo, a prolific online preacher for National Thowheeth Jama’ath, was one of the suicide bombers who struck the Shangri-La Hotel.

At the news conference, Senaratne apologised for intelligence failures, saying Sri Lankan authorities had been warned of the terror threat at least 10 days earlier but those warnings were not passed on to the prime minister. On the 4th of April, 14 days before these incidents occurred, we had been informed about these incidents,” he said.

“On the 9th of April, the chief of national intelligence wrote a letter and in this letter many of the names of the members of the terrorist organisation were written down. The prime minister was not informed by these letters and revelations.”

The breakdown in communication has been blamed on the fractured relationship between Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and President Maithripala Sirisena, who holds the defence portfolio.

The sad reality is that, although these attacks are unique in nature within Sri Lanka, this is not a new affair on a global scale. Terrorist attacks have been taking different forms in recent years, the latest occurrence prior to this one being the New Zealand attacks at two Mosques. This illustrates that no group is safe from such horrific violence.

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