On the resurrection day of Lord Jesus, the blood of his children was spilt. The Sri Lankan cities of Colombo, Negombo, and Batticaloa witnessed one of the bloodiest terror attacks on Easter day of 2019 which left a death toll of more than 320 and injured over 500. The first wave of the attacks was targeted at churches. St. Sebastian’s Church in Negombo was severely damaged. Around 30 foreign nationals also lost their lives in these terror attacks. The second wave of attacks targeted three luxury hotels in the capital city of Colombo – namely the Shangri La, Cinnamon Grand and Kingsbury. Another blast destroyed a hotel in front of the Dehiwala Zoo in Dehiwala-Mount Lavinia. The final blast struck a private house in Mahawila Gardens in Dematagoda. According to Sri Lankan intelligence sources, the National Thowheeth Jama’ath (NTJ) – Sri Lankan terror outfit had been planning to carry out suicide attacks targeting churches and the Indian High Commission in Colombo.
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) claimed responsibility the Sri Lankan terror attacks on April 23, 2019; two days after the attacks were executed.
According to global terrorist experts, the Sri Lanka attack can be seen as a retaliatory terror attack to the Christchurch mosque attack in New Zealand during the Friday prayer on March 15, 2019, at the Al Noor Mosque in the suburb of Riccarton and in the Linwood Islamic Centre which had killed around 50 people, most of whom were Muslims. New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern had condemned it as one of New Zealand’s darkest days. According to experts, ISIS had chosen churches and the Easter Day to attract international attention towards their retaliatory terror attack.
Though ISIS had targeted the minority Christian community, which account for less than 10% of the total population of around 21.4 million citizens of Sri Lanka, the scale of the attacks has shaken the whole island nation and its economy. Sri Lanka which is a multi-ethnic, multi religious and multi-cultural country has been affected badly and it’s overtly tourism dependent economy is bound to be hit in future.
Terrorism has no religion
Can a terror attack be legitimately religionised or legitimised as a retaliatory measure? Imankalyan Lahiri, Assistant Professor, International Relations Department, Jadavpur University, told BE, “Terrorism has no language, no religion and no national identity. Whether non-state actors do it or a state instigates terror through non-state actors, it should be condemned. Now the clash between Muslim civilisation and Christian civilisation is being exploited by a few non-state actors like terrorist groups in a larger platform.”
Peace not given a chance
Sri Lanka has been plagued by communal unrest in recent times. There have been clashes between the majority Sinhalese Buddhist community and minority Muslims. In March last year, the government imposed a 12 day state of emergency to quell anti-Muslim riots. The nation has also been troubled by terror attacks from ethnic Tamil militants for years and had been engulfed in a lengthy civil war than spanned across decades. However, the civil war ended in 2009 and the island nation turned itself into a popular tourist destination – exploiting its natural bounty.
How will these terror attacks impact India – Sri Lanka ties
India has strongly condemned the Sri Lankan terror attacks. The Indian state of Kerala has dispatched a team of doctors to aid the terror devastated island nation. According to Indian sources, they had intelligence regarding these attacks and had passed that intelligence to their Sri Lankan counterparts. Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe confirmed that prior information about the strike was there but that it had not reached him and other ministers.
India had traditionally been a close ally of this island nation. India under Rajiv Gandhi had played an active role in combating the Tamil ethnic terror group – LTTE and had helped the Sri Lankan military during the civil war. At present, India is highly invested in Sri Lanka and is helping Sri Lankan authorities to build ports in Colombo and Trincomalee. The development potentially extends India’s outreach in the Indian Ocean, where China is pursuing an expansionist policy. India is also helping build road and rail projects in Sri Lanka, aiming to check China’s influence on the nation. It is important for Indian authorities to define and establish their empathy for Sri Lanka, following the devastating terror attacks to secure its regional interests.