Sri Lanka’s Easter bombings send a militant global message

IS has claimed responsibility for the Easter Sunday bombings in Sri Lanka that left more than 250 people dead and hundreds more wounded, confirming what many had feared.

May 02, 2019

By Luke Hunt
Ever since the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (IS) emerged as a ruthless, rampaging force to be reckoned with more than five years ago, the question that has haunted intelligence circles has been: If home is an option for foreign jihadists, what will they do if they return?

IS has claimed responsibility for the Easter Sunday bombings in Sri Lanka that left more than 250 people dead and hundreds more wounded, confirming what many had feared.

IS, al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, and affiliates such as Jemaah Islamiyah, have a long history of inspiring and coordinating Islamic suicide bombers.

Before Easter Sunday, IS alone had inspired 143 attacks in 29 countries while acting as a magnet for fanatical Muslims wanting to reshape the world in their own image, sucking them into war in Syria and Iraq.

As IS nears defeat in the Middle East, its militias are leaving to rejoin their families at home and hook up with the ranks of other jihadist groups in Asia and the West, where terror tactics have become an unfortunate and deadly norm.

Nightclubs, city malls, office blocks, public transport, pop concerts, hotels, schools, hospitals, churches and mosques — with lots of people and lax security — are the low-hanging fruit for terrorists of all stripes.

Immediately after the attacks on churches and hotels in Sri Lanka, suspicion fell on local Islamist group National Thowheeth (Tauhid) Jama’ath (NTJ), which had been named in an intelligence warning 10 days earlier. Jama’ath means council, while thowheeth has been romanised from Arabic with various spellings. The most popular is tauhid or tawheed and signifies oneness with God, Islam’s central and most important tenet.

NTJ’s brand of Islam is straight out of the IS playbook: cheap, homemade, simultaneous bombings targeting society’s most vulnerable, using fear to underscore a political or religious agenda. In military parlance, it is the very definition of terrorism.

Almost 40 Sri Lankans are known to have fought with IS in Syria, similar to jihadist numbers from as far afield as Malaysia and Indonesia, to Australia and Britain. Perhaps the most infamous Sri Lankan IS jihadi was Sharfaz Shuraih Muhsin, killed in an airstrike on Syria in 2015. More came from the nearby Maldives.

According to the Centre for Strategic and International Strategic Studies, the number of jihadists globally has quadrupled since the 2001 attacks on New York and Washington, and the number of people killed by them stands at about half a million. Jemaah Islamiyah has terrorised Indonesia and beyond for more than a decade.
Terrorism is cheap, nasty, psychotic and potent.

The Easter Sunday bombings were carried out with precision, even if word had leaked. Ten days before the attacks, police were warned by international intelligence agencies of a threat by bombers to “prominent churches” and the Indian High Commission in Colombo.

NTJ has been active in recent years, earning a reputation for vandalising Buddhist statues, and it went very public with its goal of importing the global jihadist movement to Sri Lanka. Secretary Abdul Razik was charged with inciting racism in 2016.

For all the ethnic bloodshed which has dogged Sri Lanka, the island state had escaped the tentacles of Islamic terrorism and the type of maniacal dogma normally associated with bin Laden and IS.

The latest bombings put the Vatican and its dioceses, and any government that felt immune to this type of attack, on notice. The Indian High Commission was presumably warned and was not hit.

Were the churches and hotels warned about the attack and what measures did they take to protect their parishioners and guests?

Parishioners would like to be able to go to Mass in peace.--ucanews.com

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