Security expert says claims Sri Lanka attacks revenge for Christchurch massacre unlikely

Security expert says claims Sri Lanka attacks revenge for Christchurch massacre unlikely

Kerry Wise
April 24, 2019

The ministry of foreign affairs says it believes 35 foreign nationals are among the dead. In addition to the two Saudis, officials said the foreign victims included one person from Bangladesh, two from China, eight from India, one from France, one from Japan, one from The Netherlands, one from Portugal, one from Spain, two from Turkey, six from the United Kingdom, two people with USA and United Kingdom dual nationalities, and two with Australian and Sri Lankan dual nationalities. The government has blamed the National Thowheed Jamath jihadist group for the attacks, which killed almost 300 people.

"We do not believe these attacks were carried out by a group of people who were confined to this country", health minister and Cabinet spokesman Rajitha Senaratne said. He added that a foreign network was probably involved.

Bloomberg reported Muslims in the country were not surprised that an attack would be launched by National Thowhe Jamaath. It was the deadliest attack in Sri Lanka since a civil war ended in 2009.

A statement from President Maithripala Sirisena's office said he would be seeking information on who was responsible for plotting the attacks.

A top Sri Lankan official later told the BBC that the government and intelligence services should not be blamed.

The nationwide emergency in Sri Lanka, effective at midnight, gives police wide powers to carry out searches and interrogate suspects.

There is a Sri Lanka Tawheed Jamaat, which propagates Wahabism.

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Sri Lankan officials say they have arrested suspects, but they have not been identified. The FBI has also offered laboratory expertise in testing some of the bomb evidence, and analysts have been scouring FBI databases for any pieces of information that could shed additional light on the plotters, officials said. Persons named in intelligence reports are among those arrested.

"A foreign intelligence agency has reported that the NTJ is planning to carry out suicide attacks targeting prominent churches as well as the Indian high commission in Colombo", the April 11 alert reportedly said. "Those are open questions", said Hoffman.

The suicide attacks on churches and hotels in Colombo, Negombo and Batticaloa also left 500 people injured.

Sri Lanka's 22 million people include Christian, Muslim and Hindu minority populations. The Tamil Tigers were among the first groups to deploy suicide bombers. "Too many minorities have endured violence, and leaders must stand up unambiguously for pluralist societies and the rights of minority communities", said Kumi Naidoo. Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump phoned Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on Monday morning to express condolences and received an update on the investigation.

Reports this week of a new terrorist organization out of Northern Ireland, who are being deemed the "New I.R.A" had violent clashes with police in the streets of Derry, shooting and killing a young journalist last week on the eve of the anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.

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.