Sri Lanka experienced 8 bomb blasts on Easter Sunday that targeted churches and luxury hotels in the island nation that was limping back to normalcy after the long brutal civil war with Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). A local extremist group National Thowheed Jamath (NTJ) is responsible for the attacks that were carried out with significant international support. The attacks claimed the life of 300 people with over 500 injured. 36 foreign nationals including British, U.S., Australian, Turkish, Indian, Chinese, Danish, Dutch and Portuguese nationals have died in the attacks.
The attacks continue with another blast in a van outside the church that was targeted on Monday afternoon. Another bomb at Colombo airport was dismantled early Monday morning and the local police have found 87 bomb detonators at Colombo’s main bus station. Sri Lankan authorities have arrested 24 people from the minority Muslim community in connection with the multiple blasts. A national emergency has been declared in the country effective midnight April 22.
India had shared intelligence of the attacks with Sri Lanka on April 5, with details of the operations that included the group name along with the individual members that were responsible for the terror attacks but the lack of timely counteraction is a clear intelligence failure by the Sri Lankan government. Until Sri Lankan government spokesman identified National Thowheed Jamath for the April 21 deadly attacks very few people had heard of the NTJ.
More than 70 percent of Sri Lanka’s 22 million people are Buddhists, about 13 percent are Hindu, while Muslims make up around 10 percent and Christians 8 percent. These attacks could spark a renewal of communal violence in the island nation. This is a new line of conflict. The attacks included international hotels and churches suggest that the terrorists want international attention and disruption to the growing tourism industry.
NTJ is believed to have splintered off from another Islamist terror group in the country, Sri Lanka Thowheed Jamath (SLTJ). In November 2016, Justice minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe told Sri Lankan parliament that, “32 Sri Lankan Muslims from ‘well-educated and elite’ families have joined Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria”. Rajapakshe also added that the government was aware of some foreigners coming to Sri Lanka to spread what he called Islamic extremism.
NTJ has frequently targeted Buddhist statues in Sri Lanka but this is the first large scale terror attack by them of this kind. In some videos that are available on social media about the 2 suicide bombers that have been identified; Moulvi Zahran Hashim and Mohammed Azam Mohammed; evidence of their radical beliefs and statements that “Anyone who disagrees with Muslims should be killed” are very clear. Hashim, a lecturer was working for a Chinese shipping company in Hambantota and was a Pakistani origin Sri Lankan who had travelled to Pakistan three times in the last year and once to Lebanon.
Geopolitically, these attacks have come at a time when the trade war between USA and China is showing no respite. Sri Lanka’s strategic location in the IOR is crucial to maintain dominance in the region which has already begun to get militarized. It is noteworthy that Sri Lanka’s former leadership under Mahindra Rajpakse made no secret about its close relationship with China and its loss of power to Sirisena that leans towards India and USA is not good news for China. Also, with the global financial slowdown gaining momentum, India’s import driven economy is reasonably well placed to bear the recession. India is also among the fastest growing economies in the world and global powers would also want to ensure that its growth remains in check as the world’s largest democracy is coveted by all for its market. China and its colony Pakistan would also want India to have all its flanks on fire for containment.
The liberal and human rights screaming crowd ensured that Sri Lanka would go slow in eliminating extremist threats emanating from the region citing war crimes. This has made it easy for terror groups to foster. With such horrific attacks, now would be a good time for the children who lost their families in the blasts to ask the liberals why they are so quiet on accepting the terror inclinations of a certain religion behind their tiresome charade of terror has no religion.