What’s Going on in Sri Lanka? | NowThis World

Terror attacks across Sri Lanka have shocked the South Asian country [NEWS CLIP]: ”Now I want to begin with the horrific breaking news out of Sri Lanka, an island-nation out off the southern coast of India

" [NEWS CLIP]: ”We begin with some breaking news out of Sri Lanka, where reports of 6 bomb attacks at churches and hotels" [NEWS CLIP]: ”There had been 8 bombings overnight in and around 3 cities in Sri Lanka" [Host]: Hundreds of people lost their lives in the horrific bombings that became the deadliest violence in the country in a decade But after the initial reports broke on that bloody Sunday morning, troubling new details began to leak out about what Sri Lanka’s security agencies knew Details that show certain officials in Sri Lanka were warned of possible attacks — and they didn’t take the steps to stop them

On the morning of Easter Sunday, at least 8 coordinated bombings ripped through Sri Lanka Suicide bombers targeted churches and hotels frequented by westerners They primarily took place in the capital, Colombo, as well as other cities At least 250 people were killed and hundreds more injured The terror attacks became the deadliest violence in the country since the end of Sri Lanka’s brutal 26-year civil war just ten years ago

And while the country has a long history of sectarian violence — there was something different about this most recent incident [Amarasingam]: From the very beginning it seemed like this is outside of local grievances outside of the local context And there had to be something a little bit more going on [HOST]: That’s because the civil war was between the government, which is dominated by the ethnically-Sinhalese majority, and a sepratist militant group called the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam or the Tamil Tigers which was looking to carve out its own state in Sri Lanka The Sinhalese make up nearly 75% of the country’s population

Sinhalese Sri Lankans are primarily Buddhist The Tamils represent only about 11% of the population They are primarily Hindu, and live in the country’s north and parts of its eastern regions But the country’s minority Christian and Muslim populations? They were largely bystanders in that conflict And that’s why this most recent attack took some experts by surprise

[Amarasingam]: [These attacks] seems very much outside of the local context didn't doesn't seem to make a whole lot of sense And so from the very beginning it seemed like there had to be some international jihadist organization at play " [HOST]: It wasn’t only the targets of these attacks that made the bombings suspect — but also the sheer scale and coordination of them

The local militant group allegedly responsible for the brutal attacks had never shown this level of sophistication So it wasn’t out of the realm of possibility — that the group had help from an outside terror organization [Amarasingam]: For international jihadist groups like al-Qaida and ISIS attacking attacking the Christian community and attacking tourists is actually one of their one of their big targets and it's always been that way [HOST]: ISIS, the group that recently lost all of its territory in Iraq and Syria, claimed responsibility for the attacks A news agency linked to ISIS released unverified footage of the purported suicide bombers standing in front of the black ISIS banner

[Amarasingam]: There's a common assumption that ISIS will claim a literal dumpster fire or something if they could but generally how they've worked is they recognize that ISIS media is much like any other media that they actually have to report accurate information for people to trust what they have to say And so generally they've they've been pretty accurate What's difficult to know for sure is at what point some of these individuals in this movement made contact with the Islamic State whether they were there any of them traveled to Syria to fight and whether they came back or you know kind of dispatched by the Islamic State to launch attacks in the West or in places like Sri Lanka” [HOST]: While it's unknown if the Sri Lankan government had any knowledge of ISIS' alleged involvement, a leaked security memo show that these attacks weren't a complete shock Just weeks before that attack, India warned the Sri Lankan government of potential attacks

It was given detailed information, including the plan to targeted Catholic churches, as well as the suspected militants’ names and addresses One reason these credible warnings were not taken seriously could have been a result of the political mistrust between the president, the prime minister, and their loyalists [Amarasingam]: There is always this assumption among amongst politicians in Sri Lanka that everyone's trying to play them that they're being you know they're being forced into doing something that's then going to be used as a political weapon against them The very idea that the president was not inviting the prime minister to national security briefings and things like that I think are quite dangerous I think they should they should be careful not to politicize national security because national security is supposed to be above the political fray

" [HOST]: But experts, like Amarasingam, say that isn’t expected as the country enters a heated election season later this year Only time will tell if Sri Lankan leaders will put politics, or national security, first on their agenda And whether their decision will cost more people their lives

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