Home / Opinion and Issues/ Sri Lanka attacks likely the work of Islamist militants: Experts

Sri Lanka attacks likely the work of Islamist militants: Experts


Comments / {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}} Views / Tuesday, 23 April 2019 00:00

Facebook

Sri Lanka saw frequent suicide bombings before 2009 but ethnic minority Tamil separatist insurgents mostly went for government targets. Sunday’s attacks marked a shift to churches and places associated with Western interests, experts said - Pic by Chamila Karunarathna

 

 

JAKARTA/SINGAPORE (Reuters): Coordinated Easter Sunday bombings at churches and hotels in Sri Lanka bore the hallmarks of militant groups Islamic State or al Qaeda, security experts said on Monday, citing the level of sophistication of the attacks.

No group has claimed responsibility for the explosions, many of them suicide bombings, which killed 290 people and wounded 500 others – the deadliest attack in the island nation since the end of a civil war in 2009.

Experts said the targeting of churches and hotels where foreign tourists stay in Sri Lanka, which endured several suicide bombings targeting Government officials and installations during the civil war, was a “new and worrying development” in the predominantly Buddhist country.

“These synchronised attacks are out of the ordinary for Sri Lanka. Compared with similar attacks in the Middle East and Southeast Asia, it has the DNA of attacks carried out by Islamic State and al Qaeda,” said Alto Labetubun, an anti-terrorism expert who has researched the two groups for a decade.

A senior Asian counter-terrorism official who declined to be identified said the attack was likely carried out by a group with “significant operational capability and skilled commanders”.

President Maithripala Sirisena’s office said intelligence reports indicated foreign terrorist organisations were behind Sri Lankan militants and asked for help from foreign nations.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe acknowledged on Sunday the government had some prior information about possible attacks on churches involving a little-known Islamist group.

Rohan Gunaratna, a Singapore-based security expert, said the Sri Lankan group was the Islamic State branch in Sri Lanka and perpetrators were known to have links to Sri Lankans who travelled to the Middle East to join the hardline group in Syria and Iraq.



‘Foreign actors’

Four of the bombs went off at roughly the same time on Sunday, at 8.45 a.m., with two others coming within 20 minutes. Two other explosions rocked the city in the afternoon. Authorities later found unexploded devices and a van full of explosives in various locations.

The US State Department issued a travel warning that said there was a threat of more attacks.

Churches have been bombed in various parts of Asia and the Middle East over the years.

Last year, there were suicide attacks on churches in the Indonesian city of Surabaya and in the town of Jolo in the Philippines this year. Islamic State claimed responsibility for both those attacks.

Sri Lanka saw frequent suicide bombings before 2009 but ethnic minority Tamil separatist insurgents mostly went for government targets.

Sunday’s attacks marked a shift to churches and places associated with Western interests, experts said.

A history of conflict also means it was possible the perpetrators of Sunday’s attacks had access to weapons and explosives but it was also likely that foreign actors were involved, they said.

“With this scale of attacks, I don’t think this was only carried out by locals. There is most likely involvement of foreign groups or people, including people moving in and out of India or Pakistan,” said terrorism expert Labetubun.

Pratyush Rao, south Asia analyst at the Control Risks consultancy, said explosives were widely available in Sri Lanka.

“While the scale and sophistication of the attacks suggest an overseas link, there does not appear to be any evidence so far to link it directly to IS,” Rao said.

“It is plausible though that the attacks may have been inspired by IS tactics and ideology.”


Share This Article

Facebook Twitter


DISCLAIMER:

1. All comments will be moderated by the Daily FT Web Editor.

2. Comments that are abusive, obscene, incendiary, defamatory or irrelevant will not be published.

3. We may remove hyperlinks within comments.

4. Kindly use a genuine email ID and provide your name.

5. Spamming the comments section under different user names may result in being blacklisted.

COMMENTS

Today's Columnists

Revitalising the tourist inflows

Wednesday, 22 May 2019

Easter Sunday 21 April terror acts have dealt a very heavy blow on tourism. The inflow has dried up for the moment while it can be presumed that forward selling too may have become sluggish. It is noted that Government has introduced a series of meas


Truth has now arrived, and falsehood has perished

Wednesday, 22 May 2019

“And say: Truth has now arrived, and Falsehood has perished: for Falsehood by its very own nature is bound to perish.” Holy Quran: Chapter 17 Verse 81. Every discussion, debate and discourse that we see and hear over the audio – visual and prin


Afghan refugees face Jaffna’s hostility: These Sri Lankans are crazy

Wednesday, 22 May 2019

Abbas Ahmadi, an IT specialist, was rather high in the Afghan provincial civil service. He is of Hazara ethnicity and persecuted by the majority Pashtuns who ironically dominate the ruling faction as well as the rebelling Taliban.The Hazaras are inpa


One month gone: No charge on over 200 Catholics murdered

Wednesday, 22 May 2019

It’s been one month since the murder of around 300 innocent Catholic children and parents but no has yet been charged for the biggest negligence of duty that Sri Lanka has seen in recent history. The President and Prime Minister have both denied a


Columnists More