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Why Islamic State's claim - without evidence - it carried out Sri Lanka attacks makes sense

More than 300 people were killed in the deadly explosions in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday. Credit: AP

Seven attacks in three cities killing more than 300 people. A six-foot-long pipe bomb diffused. Some 87 detonators found abandoned.

The scale of what happened in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday explains the initial analysis shared by the country’s health minister. “We don’t see how a small organisation can do all of this,” said Rajitha Senaratne shortly after the attacks.

National Thowheed Jamath, a little-known local jihadist group, was blamed.

But how could an organisation known for targeting Buddhist shrines have switched to targeting Christians and tourists in churches and hotels with such co-ordination and on such a large scale?

The complexity of the attacks had always seemed beyond the capability of ‘NTJ’, which was identified after the attacks and in an internal government briefing 10 days beforehand. Surely, intelligence officials concluded, the attackers must have received help from somewhere else.

So there should have been little surprise when Islamic State group claimed to have been behind the attacks. It has provided no evidence - it rarely does - but the claim makes sense.

Since the attacks, the Sri Lankan government has said that the local terror group responsible had been working with an international network. Credit: AP

Since the attacks, the Sri Lankan government has said that the local terror group responsible had been working with an international network. There are only two such organisations with the capability of carrying out such a massacre: al Qaeda and Isis.

If an Isis connection is proven, these attacks would be its most deadly massacre outside the Middle East - with a death toll that is already far in excess of the 130 killed in Paris and the 32 people killed in Brussels.

We should treat such claims of responsibility with suspicion. Isis has form elbowing its way into the limelight.

In 2017 it released a statement saying it was behind the shootings at a country music festival in Las Vegas in which 58 people were killed. By the time a police investigation revealed no link to a terrorist organisation, the lie had already spread.

But the Las Vegas statement seemed spurious and immediately raised questions, whereas Tuesday’s statement from Isis seems to have answered many questions about the attacks.

And if it is proven that Isis worked with a local organisation to carry our these massacres, it might indicate a future pattern of behaviour for a group which is struggling to find a new pattern of behaviour following the fall of its so-called caliphate.