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Thread: Sri Lanka bombings Easter 2019 (catch all)

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    Council Member Kevin23's Avatar
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    Default Sri Lanka bombings Easter 2019 (catch all)

    At least 207 people were killed and hundreds more injured as several churches and hotels were rocked by simultaneous explosions on Easter Sunday in Sri Lanka.

    Eight explosions took place, including in three Christian churches and three hotels, some commonly used by foreign visitors. In addition to those who were killed at least 450 were wounded, according to officials with police, the Colombo Hospital and St. Sebastian Church.

    There were at least nine foreigners among the dead in Colombo, according to the officials. Two dual citizens of the U.S. and U.K. were among the dead, as well as one Portuguese citizen and two U.K. citizens, according to the Sri Lankan Ministry of Foreign Affairs. One American was also among the missing. All of the foreigners died in attacks on hotels.
    https://abcnews.go.com/International...mqiLzx2Em0P4d4

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    This is a curious series of attacks. First of all, multiple targets where the bombs went off around the same time and one sometime afterwards. Then there is the absence of anyone or any group claiming responsibility. Christians make up 7.5% of the population, which is very religious. So is this the work of one person planting the bombs?

    I see the BBC report refers to suicide bombers:https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-48001720

    For background:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sri_Lanka
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    Quote Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
    This is a curious series of attacks. First of all, multiple targets where the bombs went off around the same time and one sometime afterwards. Then there is the absence of anyone or any group claiming responsibility. Christians make up 7.5% of the population, which is very religious. So is this the work of one person planting the bombs?

    I see the BBC report refers to suicide bombers:https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-48001720

    For background:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sri_Lanka
    The letter, citing foreign intelligence officials, identified the group suspected of planning attacks as National Thowheeth Jama’ath. It named individual members of the group, which it said advocates spreading Islam by killing “nonbelievers.”
    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/21/w...fYgEfCT9XVd1Rs

    Appears to be militant Jihadis.

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    Understood, although no group claiming responsibility remains a fact. The Soufan Group's commentary might help, notably that such attacks have happened before and a small number if Islamists from Sri Lanka joined IS:https://thesoufancenter.org/intelbri...-in-sri-lanka/
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    Default Two experts weigh in

    Two experts offer their insight, one via 'The New Yorker' magazine and they explain:
    To discuss Sunday’s atrocities and the political situation in Sri Lanka, I spoke by phone with Amarnath Amarasingam, a senior research fellow at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue who studies extremism in Sri Lanka and the region. During our conversation, which has been edited for length and clarity, we discussed social media’s role in exacerbating ethnic conflict, concerns about Islamic extremist groups gaining a foothold in Sri Lanka, and the Buddhist majority’s “majority within the minority” complex.
    Link:https://www.newyorker.com/news/q-and...pes-sri-lanka?

    His bio:https://www.isdglobal.org/isd_team/amarnath-amrasingam/

    Then there is Jason Burke, in 'The Observer' who adds context and some insight. A far degree of government chaos is apparent, although it appears the police quickly knew where to go - at some cost sadly.
    Link:https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/apr/22/sri-lanka-bombings-islamist-group-blamed-but-focus-also-on-failure-of-security-forces?
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    Default Moderator at work

    This thread was originally entitled: Sri Lanka bombings: 207 dead, hundreds injured in church, hotel explosions on Easter. It has now been renamed 'Sri Lanka bombings Easter 2019'. It was also in 'The Whole News' arena and has now been moved to the regional arena for South Asia.

    There is an old thread on Sri Lanka where the focus was on defeating the LTTE (Tamil Tigers) in a war that ended ten years ago.
    davidbfpo

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Updates including ISIS claim it was their attack

    Reading through reporting mainly via Twitter it appears most have accepted the claim of responsibility made by ISIS. Oddly IMHO this BBC News report is less convinced:
    In the past, IS has sometimes claimed attacks that it was not involved in or which it simply inspired. But the details from IS would seem to back up the government's assessment.The choice of targets is much more in line with IS ideology than with the traditional types of communal violence seen in Sri Lanka.
    A comment with far wider significance, with my emphasis in bold:
    There are still questions - did the local men affiliate themselves to IS or receive direct support? Did they travel to Syria or to other countries? The Sri Lankan government has said it believes some of them had spent time abroad, but how significant was that to the plot?

    Answering questions like these will be important not just for Sri Lanka but other countries as they try and understand whether other relatively small, locally focused groups could be capable of transforming a threat into violence on such a massive scale.
    Link:https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-48028045


    Then there are two US-based SME commentaries. From CFR a short Q&A 'Sri Lanka Bombings: What We Know?':https://www.cfr.org/article/sri-lank...s-what-we-know

    A more comprehensive 'Lawfare' article by Daniel Byman:https://www.lawfareblog.com/attacks-...reign-fighters
    davidbfpo

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    Default Intelligence error this time and before

    An Indian intelligence SME has commented on the known fact that a warning was passed by India to Sri Lanka, which apparently was not acted upon. Sadly Sri Lanka intelligence agencies have done this before:
    In September 1994, we successfully intercepted an LTTE-coded message which clearly indicated that it was organising another assassination on the same lines as Rajiv Gandhi. The word ‘Gamini’ had appeared several times, the size of the waistcoat to be worn by the human bomb was specified, and even the venue, which was an election meeting. We assessed that it was meant against Gamini Dissenayaka (UNP) who was a presidential candidate in the October 1994 presidential elections after President Ranasinghe Premadasa was assassinated by the LTTE in 1993. We immediately conveyed the details to the Sri Lankan intelligence through approved channels.
    But we were shocked when he was killed along with 50 others during an election meeting on October 24, 1994, in Colombo, on the same lines as Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination. Ordinarily, a terrorist organisation changes the methods of operations after a major event to cover their tracks. But the LTTE was so brazen that it did not do so. It used the same method of operation to convey their HQ decision to assassinate Dissenayaka. We received no convincing reply from Colombo why our alert was not acted upon.
    Link:https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/co...ng/762831.html

    I know another SME has commented on Twitter that the named local group would - in his opinion - not locally be assessed as bomb attack capable.

    (Added later). More details on the information discovered by India and provided. Plus the reaction in Sri Lanka.
    Link:https://www.theguardian.com/world/20...lasts-sources?
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 04-24-2019 at 08:50 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
    An Indian intelligence SME has commented on the known fact that a warning was passed by India to Sri Lanka, which apparently was not acted upon. Sadly Sri Lanka intelligence agencies have done this before:
    Link:https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/co...ng/762831.html

    I know another SME has commented on Twitter that the named local group would - in his opinion - not locally be assessed as bomb attack capable.

    (Added later). More details on the information discovered by India and provided. Plus the reaction in Sri Lanka.
    Link:https://www.theguardian.com/world/20...lasts-sources?

    Brookings recently a piece today in their morning Briefing echoing your opinion.

    Sri Lanka, however, shows how a failure to prepare can be deadly. The country’s security services had considerable advance warning of a potential attack, including names, addresses and phone numbers of members of the suspected group involved in the attack. India reportedly provided considerable information based on its own Islamic State investigation. The Sri Lankan government even had warning that Catholic churches were among the possible targets. In case they were tempted to dismiss all this, weeks before the Easter attack, they found detonators, explosives and other clear indicators that attacks were being planned. What explains this remarkable intelligence and security failure is not yet clear. The Sri Lankan government itself was highly divided and information may not have been properly shared as a result. In addition, Sri Lanka’s historical focus was on Tamil terrorism rather than on Muslim-Christian violence. An investigation into the government’s handling of the attack is necessary to determine why the security services failed to act on what initial reports suggest was clear warning of an imminent attack.
    https://www.brookings.edu/blog/order...ntent=72061007
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 04-26-2019 at 07:21 AM. Reason: 217v today

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    Default The wider context of this being an ISIS attack

    Professor Paul Rogers's latest column looks globally at:
    Attacks in Sri Lanka and elsewhere suggest that the al-Qaida/ISIS phenomenon is still very much with us, despite military interventions by the West.
    From the global to the local (Sri Lanka):
    The precise details of the movement that caused the carnage in Sri Lanka are not easy to decipher, not least because of the political divisions within the Sri Lankan government and an intense blame game now under way, but it appears to have been a detailed, sophisticated and long-planned operation which goes well beyond being “inspired” by ISIS. Indeed the indications that some of the bombers were highly educated and had worked and studied abroad, are uncomfortably close to the make-up Frankfurt Cell that was at the root of 9/11.
    Link:https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/sri...ar-on-terror/?
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    https://lk.usembassy.gov/travel-advi...nsider-travel/

    Travel Advisory: Sri Lanka – Level 3 – Reconsider Travel
    On April 26, 2019, the Department of State ordered the departure of all school-age family members of U.S. government employees in Kindergarten through 12th grade. The Department also authorized the voluntary departure of non-emergency U.S. government employees and family members.

    Terrorist groups continue plotting possible attacks in Sri Lanka. Terrorists may attack with little or no warning, targeting tourist locations, transportation hubs, markets, shopping malls, government facilities, hotels, clubs, restaurants, places of worship, parks, major sporting and cultural events, educational institutions, airports, hospitals, and other public areas.

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    http://www.adaderana.lk/news/54693/1...sainthamaruthu

    15 bodies including children found at blast site in Sainthamaruthu

    The 3-minute video is worth viewing. A slain police officer previously owned one of the rifles recovered. The explosives and denotators looked to me like the type used by construction companies. It is probably that the Sri Lankan security forces may be right, and may not have involved external assistance.

    However, the following certainly indicates ISIS-inspired.

    Meanwhile, during another search operation carried out last evening (26) in Samanthurai area, Army troops recovered ISIS flags, literature and some other objects from a place, said to be the terrorist organization’s place for oath-taking.

    According to the Military Spokesman, Brigadier Sumith Atapattu, combined troops recovered explosives, detonators, gelignite sticks, acid bottles, det cords, ISIS flags and backdrop, suicide kits, military uniforms, etc from a safe house in Samanthurai area.
    https://edition.cnn.com/2019/04/26/a...ntl/index.html

    Sri Lanka bombers' mentor is dead, but his memory still stokes fear


    Zahran Hashim had preached hate and violence for years. On Easter Sunday, at the Shangri-La hotel in Colombo, he put those words into action.

    As guests took breakfast in a cafe overlooking the sea, Zahran blew himself up, Sri Lankan officials say. If a later video released by an ISIS-affiliated news agency is to be believed, Zahran was the leading figure in a band of suicide bombers which tore apart hotels and churches across the country that morning.
    Not surprisingly, reporters have a better understanding of the situation than so-called U.S. security and intelligence experts. I asked some recently if there were different sects of Islam in Sri Lanka and received a simpleton answer that was basically no. Zahran not only defaced Buddhist sites, but he also harassed and threatened Sufis before the attack. The Sri Lankan government dropped the ball but arguably so did Western intelligence services.

    Extremists consider Sufis to be kafir, or unbelievers, and in one video on YouTube, Zahran said that if someone "is a kafir he is to be killed according to Sharia law." In Kattankudy, local Sufis ticked off a litany of harassment and violence in recent years, including bullets fired at the mosque offices and a 2017 attack by Zahran and a mob of followers wielding swords.

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    Default 32 'elite' Sri Lankan Muslims have joined Islamic State

    From NOV 2016

    https://www.reuters.com/article/us-m...-idUSKBN13D1EE

    Thirty-two Sri Lankan Muslims from “well-educated and elite” families have joined Islamic State in Syria, the justice minister told parliament on Friday, promising that the government would clamp down on extremists.
    Muslim leaders warned the government in 2014 of possible Islamic radicalization and Muslims turning to foreign Islamic groups for support, attributing this to attacks by Buddhist hardliners.
    I spent a fair amount of time in Sri Lanka in mid 1990s and occasionally visited Muslim fishing villages. The Muslims in these villages lived separately from the Buddhists, but I didn't sense any tensions between the Buddhists and Muslims at that time. The Sri Lankan soldiers I worked with confirmed there we no problems with the Muslims. Of course, the civil war at that time was between the Tamils and Singhalese. The hatred between these two groups was so thick you could cut through it with a knife. Frankly, I'm both surprised and happy they have come so far since the civil war ended in 2009. Prior to that ethnic conflict, there was a bloody communist insurgency, so Sri Lanka is no stranger to violence.

    I suspect that post 9/11/2001 horrific attacks and the subsequent depiction of all Muslims as evil murderers changed the perception of Muslims by the hard right in Sri Lanka, leading to anti-Muslim riots. We see the same in Burma, with one of the more radical Buddhist leaders stating they do not want Islamic terrorists in their country. None of this justifies the Easter attacks on innocent civilians, but I think it worth a study by real regional experts, not Western intelligence services, how pockets of this Muslim population became radicalized. It may present lessons that are transferable to other countries that will offer some credible pre-emptive action, or as Bob's World calls it, preventative COIN.

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    August 2018, the signs were all there.

    https://www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/...31-p5012l.html

    Sri Lankan student charged with terror offences in Sydney

    "At this stage it appears that this is an individual operating on his own. There is certainly some further investigation that is required but again it is a matter that is before the courts," said Acting Superintendent Sheehy.

    He has returned to his native Sri Lanka and has travelled to a number of other overseas destinations, which police on Friday refused to detail.
    From 2015

    https://jamestown.org/program/islami...nkan-outreach/

    Islamic State’s Sri Lankan Outreach

    The government’s and ACJU’s stands against the Islamic State’s outreach activities notwithstanding, grassroots radicalization of some Muslim youths in Sri Lanka is potentially directly connected with many violent skirmishes between Sri Lankan Muslims and vigilante groups associated with the majority Buddhist population in recent years.

    Not only are anti-Buddhist sentiments high among a section of Muslim populations in Sri Lanka, but alarmingly, the minority population is more vulnerable to increasing attempts by Salafist sectarian groups, such as Sri Lanka Thawheed Jamaat (SLTJ), which not only promotes sectarian discord within Islam, but also attempts to preach a rabid strain of Islam that largely despises the practices and existence of other Islamic sects like Shi’as and Ahmadiyas (New Indian Express, November 8). [7]
    To add fuel to the fire, a skip and a hop over a few hundred miles west to the Maldives, a European tourist mecca, a number of locals have supported Al-Qadea and ISIS for years.

    Saturday, April 27, 2019

    https://www.satp.org/terrorism-updat...reign-ministry

    Six Maldivians under Sri Lankan Police custody, says Foreign Ministry
    Maldives' Ministry of Foreign Affairs on April 26 confirmed that there are six Maldivian individuals currently in the custody of Sri Lankan police, reports The Edition. According to local media Mihaaru, the Maldivians were detained over two different cases. While Mihaaru reported that some were taken in over possession of unlicensed air gun, the others were arrested after the police found a book related to the Islamic State (IS) inside their residence.
    This may turn out to be nothing, but I went to the source and found this interesting.

    http://www.adaderana.lk/news/54695/s...i-lanka-report

    According to reports, one of the men was arrested after a library book on terrorist organization Islamic State (IS) was discovered in his home during a home search. Four out of the remaining men were arrested in the Negombo city area, and are all flight engineering students. It has been reported that a type of gun used for hunting was discovered in their home upon searching.
    This could play out either way, but I'll focus on the paranoid potential. An air gun won't kill anyone, but it is a good way to train in marksmenship skills quietly and in the basement of a safehouse without attracting any attention. As for the flight engineer piece, it would potentially present some scary targeting opportunities. My more rational side suspects they'll be released.

    https://www.state.gov/documents/organization/285260.pdf

    Foreign terrorist groups continue to draw radicalized Maldivians as foreign terrorist fighters; Maldives has sent the highest per capita number of foreign terrorist fighters to Syria and Iraq in prior years, according to some measures. Some of these fighters are now returning to the islands, where there are few laws or structures to deal with the threat they may pose.
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 04-28-2019 at 06:37 PM. Reason: 287v today

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    Default What may come next and hwo to respond

    Catching up I found this article by Scott Atran, sub-titled:
    The atrocities in Sri Lanka are part of a spiral of violence that poses profound questions for liberal societies
    Later:
    The spread of this transnational terrorism, whether Islamist revivalism or resurgent ethno-nationalism, is fragmenting the social and political consensus globally. That is precisely its aim: to create the void that will usher in a new world, with no room for innocents on the other side, and no “grey zone” in between.
    Link:https://www.theguardian.com/commenti...ight-sri-lanka

    Then today Jason Burke asks:
    Are there lessons we can learn from last week’s atrocities in Sri Lanka?
    He has this key passage on being radicalised:
    Crucially, someone vulnerable to radicalisation at one moment in their life may be much less so just months later. A key element in the explanations of former terrorists for their own actions – as well as in accounts given by Nazi mass killers and others – is that their acts are necessary to head off a catastrophic outcome for their community, that they are an obligation for any rational individual. Combine this with the total dehumanisation of the victims – another product of groupthink, separation and propaganda – and you are already a long way to mass murder, whether in a death camp, through an artificial famine, by a mob armed with knives and axes, or a multiple suicide bombing.
    Link:https://www.theguardian.com/world/20...ombings-terror

    Both have a global outlook, so will be copied to the general CT thread.
    davidbfpo

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    Default Terrorism on the Teardrop Island: Understanding the Easter 2019 Attacks in Sri Lanka

    Pointer to this article in West Point's latest edition of The Sentinel by Amarnath Amarasingam, who is a senior research fellow at the London-based Institute for Strategic Dialogue.
    Link:https://ctc.usma.edu/terrorism-teard...acks-sri-lanka

    He asks some awkward questions and tries to give some answers.
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 2 Weeks Ago at 07:06 PM. Reason: 975v today
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    Default The man who might have stopped Sri Lanka's Easter bombings.

    No, not an official, just an ordinary Muslim Sri Lankan. Stories like this give me hope we can stand together against evil.
    Link:https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/stories-48435902
    davidbfpo

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