Sri Lanka Easter Bombing: Assessing Future Risks of Religious Terrorism

What has happened?

The remarkable loss of innocent lives in Easter Sunday bombing has shaken entire Sri Lanka, and world at large. More than 359 people died in a coordinated suicide bombing of churches and hotels. The scope of this terrorist attack was such that the regional countries are not only on high alert but also a temporary curfew of fear over minorities is looming. This may be revival of full-fledge plan to attack Christians, Muslims and other minorities in Western and South Asian capitals. One assessment is that a syndicate of transnational terrorist organizations are actively pursuing to create significant divide between different religious minorities, in order to delegitimize writ of several states – which in turn may create more instability and social chaos in South Asia and elsewhere. A warning to the respective governments then is to prevent media and right-wing groups in spreading “hate syndrome” within among minorities.

Who were Easter Suicide Bombers: Impact of Terrorist Attacks?

The suicide bombers were “rich & educated” but hailed from a radical splinter group that allegedly broke off from a local Islamist militant outfit called National Thowheed Jamaath, said Ruwan Wijewardene, Sri Lanka’s junior defense minister. Tamil Nadu National Thowheed Jamaath (TNTJ) does have roots in Tamil Nadu state of India. It was founded in 2004. But it is unclear whether elements of TNTJ have played any role in building such a sophisticated suicide terrorist attacks on Christians in Sri Lanka. There is a danger of a backlash against Muslim minorities who stood by their fellow countrymen, and denied burial of these terrorists in Muslim cemetery. The-post Easter Sunday bombing may change interfaith relations and psychological impact of terrorist attacks has very much revived the terrible memories from previous civil war in which hundreds of thousands of innocent citizens and members of law enforcement agencies died. The trauma of civil war and now the danger of more attacks or punitive retaliation may pose serious challenge to the Sri Lankan government.

It is also claimed that Sri Lankan government ignored warnings of local Imams and intelligence provided by friendly nations about an imminent attack by ISIS. Eight coordinated suicide attacks on church and hotels demonstrate an elaborated network of violent radicals who must have been indoctrinated and brainwashed by the ISIS-affiliated outfits. Sri Lankan nation has been under recovery phase since 2009 – after almost 30 years of civil war carried out by the Tamil Tigers.

Changing Face of Transnational Terrorism

One of the assessments regarding terrorists is that some of them were “rich & educated”. This phenomenon has taken on new shape, that is, the recruitment ground of terrorist organizations is expanded, and the Sri Lankan authorities may have to adopt innovative measures to infiltrate militant groups. Whereas the Christchurch terrorist attack united the entire New Zealand, it is assessed that due to past experiences socio-religious polarization in Sri Lanka may increase. Another aspect that hints at uniquely peculiar form of contemporary terrorists relates to the immediate claims of devastating terrorist attacks by several terrorist organizations – that also reflect even among terrorists competition drives some of their sinister actions.

Recommendations

First of all, a thorough analysis of all available intelligence should be carried out, and the failures must be assessed both in terms of capacity and gaps of intelligence design. No matter who is responsible, they should be reprehended accordingly. The Sri Lankan government should provide relief to the victims, but should also ensure that the members of Muslim community are not to be targeted due to the involvement of allegedly ISIS affiliates (the investigation is still underway) from within their community. The close cooperation Imams (prayer leaders), and other interfaith leadership should be consulted, in order to provide with full information about the any other suspects. Terrorists have no religion, so “Christchurch Unity Model” against terrorists should be demonstrated so all those hold hate against other religions should be isolated and neutralized.

Terror in Sri Lanka and the Islamic Factor
The terrorirst attacks will increase tension in the already-difficult domestic political situation in Sri Lanka: in December 2019 presidential elections are set to be held in the country. The Islamic factor in the past constantly played an important role in the election campaign, and there is no doubt that the Muslim card will be played this time - the only question is what political forces will use it more effectively.
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© 2019 Eranga Jayawardena/AP
Sri Lanka Bombings Are a Dark Augury
The events in Sri Lanka today have shocked many around the world. An Easter day attack on three churches and an equal number of hotels, in such coordinated fashion, sounds surreal, even bizarre. Latest reports say over 200 people are dead and over 500 injured. It suggests the attacks were planned in meticulous fashion to inflict maximum damage. While no organization has stepped forward to take responsibility, there is speculation that this might be the handiwork of either Tamil fringe-groups or the Islamic State (Daesh)*, says Abhijit Singh, the Head of the Maritime Policy Initiative, Observer Research Foundation.
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