Attacks on Sri Lankan churches during Easter celebrations rocked the news last week. Churches were desecrated to rubble and the pictures of agonising worshippers bled across media platforms. Residents across the country were shocked and terrified by reports and internet communications were limited.
Intelligence officials found possible links between suspected attackers and a Sri Lankan group who pledged their allegiance to the Islamic State. Isis’s own media reports revealed it claimed responsibility for the attacks. While the group lost its “caliphate” territory in Iraq and Syria last month, there are still fighters scattered globally looking for retaliation, mostly in the east. The group also claimed attacks in Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan on the same day.
In Sri Lanka, officials admitted some fighters may have returned to the country from Iraq and Syria without being arrested or questioned. Sri Lankans were outraged at the lack of oversight by authorities and Muslim citizens say they warned officials about an extremist Imam three years ago, who was preaching hate in the eastern provinces.
Colombo journalist Munza Mushtaq noted that, weeks before the attacks, a report from “Indian intelligence” warned Sri Lankan officials “churches and tourist hotspots” were possible targets and still “no precautionary measures were taken”.
Mushtaq told The Independent: “Increasing racism and anti-Muslim attacks could have been an important reason why this ugly head of jihadism has raised its head in Sri Lanka.”