PERSPECTIVES | After a White Nationalist massacred Muslims praying in Christchurch, could it be that ISIS took revenge by targeting Christians in Sri Lanka? DailyFT correspondent Ashwin Hemmathagma analyzes.
The Islamic State terror organization on Tuesday claimed that it was behind a spate of deadly suicide bombings in Sri Lanka that killed 321 people, saying in a statement issued by its official propaganda agency that the attacks targeted Christians and citizens of countries bombings its territories and Christians.
“Those that carried out the attack that targeted members of the US-led coalition and Christians in Sri Lanka the day before yesterday are Islamic State group fighters,” a statement released by IS propaganda agency Amaq said.
The group released a second statement hours later with the names of seven of the alleged suicide bombers, and photos of three of them standing in front of Islamic State flags brandishing weapons.
The Sri Lankan government had earlier pinned the coordinated Easter Sunday assault on multiple churches and hotels in the capital Colombo and beyond on a little-known local Islamist group called National Thowheeth Jama’ath (NTJ), and arrested 40 people in connection with the attacks.
The latest official death toll stood at 321 on Tuesday, including dozens of foreigners and at least 45 children.
The carnage — which also left some 500 people injured — was the worst atrocity since the South Asian country’s civil war ended a decade ago, and the worst ever against Sri Lanka’s small Christian minority, who make up just seven percent of the country’s population of 21 million.
The government was grappling with reported massive intelligence failures ahead of the attack, after announcing on Monday it had known about the threat but failed to take relevant precautions.
A source told the Reuters news agency, meanwhile, that India had alerted Sri Lankan intelligence services to an imminent Islamist threat hours before the massacre.
On April 11th, Sri Lanka’s police warned that a “foreign intelligence agency” had reported the NTJ planned suicide attacks on churches but the warning was not passed on to Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe or other top ministers.
Sri Lanka’s deputy defense minister had said earlier that initial findings suggested that the attacks were “retaliation” for shootings on two mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch last month.
But New Zealand said it has “not yet seen” any intelligence reports linking the two attacks.
Police sources told the AFP news agency, meanwhile, that two Muslim brothers were behind two of the hotel suicide blasts.