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Sri Lanka's attacks warn of a return to violence after years of security

2019-04-24T15:24:47.811Z

Sri Lanka has gone through a bloody period that has been embroiled in a 30-year civil war. In recent years, there has been almost no violence until last Easter, when large-scale and coordinated terrorist attacks on churches and hotels killed 310 people. The government blamed the attack


Sri Lanka has gone through a bloody period that has been embroiled in a 30-year civil war. In recent years, there has been almost no violence until last Easter, when large-scale and coordinated terrorist attacks on churches and hotels killed 310 people. The government blamed the attack on an unknown militant group called Tawhid Group, which gained a bad reputation in Sri Lanka to maim four Buddhas outside the temples in the central town of Manila in December 2018. What investigators should do now is know how The group's ability of subversion has turned into a systematic, multifaceted, and perhaps even more important, attack now.

Places of worship are easy targets, but Sunday's attacks point to a level of complexity that the country has not seen since the civil war between the government and Tamil separatist rebels, which ended in 2009. The rebels were the leaders of modern suicide bombings, the assassination of political leaders and the targeting of civilians.

But the conflict has also been ethnically: the Sinhalese majority against the Tamil rebels. Since then, religious violence has been rare; when it breaks out, it is usually limited to tensions, which is why the Passover attack by a mysterious group on Christian places of worship is very surprising .

"This is not logical," says South Asia terrorism expert and associate professor of Georgetown University Christine Fair. "The Tawhid group has not attacked churches before. Moreover, Sri Lanka did not generally experience tensions between Muslims, who make up 10% of the population and Christians, who represent 7%. An outside group such as Da'ash or al-Qaeda is more likely to be involved.

The Sri Lankan government, which imposed a lack of social media after the attack, blamed the Tawhid group and arrested several people. Sri Lanka government spokesman Rajitha Sinaratny told reporters there was "an international network that these attacks can not succeed without." While he did not clarify nor provide evidence.

Rita Katz, director of the Sitel Intelligence Group, which monitors armed and extremist networks, noted that coordinated attacks on churches are, in fact, a hallmark of Daqash, which carried out similar operations in Egypt and the Philippines. Although militancy was not a big problem in Sri Lanka, the organization issued some of its statements in Tamil, a language spoken in southern India and Tamil in Sri Lanka.

Most Sri Lankan Muslims are Tamil, although Tamils ​​are mostly Hindus.

It is not yet clear whether there are links between the group and other terrorist organizations, but armed groups have achieved successes in parts of the world, which had previously had little impact, as in the Philippines and Indonesia. Online propaganda has been used to push disgruntled youth in Europe into extremism; recruited from existing organizations such as the Taliban in Afghanistan and Boko Haram in Nigeria; and have intervened in the security vacuum in places like Libya.

In fact, in 2016, Sri Lanka admitted that 32 Sri Lankan extremists had joined the Da'ash, a small fraction of the country's total Muslim population, but important enough for the country's government to notice. It is not known whether any of them returned to The country.

In addition, operations such as those in Sri Lanka require expertise and planning. Extremists must be radicalized, recruited and trained to launch an attack of this magnitude. This indicates safe locations, planning cells, equipment and bomb-making materials, all hallmarks of a well-organized group.

"The operation is not easily carried out, so someone decides to kill himself in a suicide attack," says Bruce Hoffman, a terrorism expert and professor at Georgetown University.

After that happened, the attack at this very moment in Sri Lanka should not be a complete surprise; tensions have escalated since the end of the civil war; political competition has been disrupted; and following the bombings, there have been warnings of an impending attack.

"In the postwar period, the Muslim community was a scapegoat, and there was a growing sense of fear of Islam," said Shubana Xavier, an assistant professor of global Islam in South Asia, an assistant professor at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario.

These sentiments intensified, driven mostly by misinformation spread through social media, and turned violent in March 2018, when Buddhists attacked Muslim-owned businesses and places of worship, killing at least two Muslims. Even during that period, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and President Maitripala Sericina, the two men still a bitter foe, pushed Sri Lanka into a constitutional crisis last year, only solved through the intervention of the Supreme Court.

Many warnings about the target churches were ignored. Whether the threats were not reported because of incompetence, or because of the prime minister's rivalry with Serecina, who controls the police and the army; or because the information has been disabled due to bureaucratic procedures, he said that the Muslim community in Sri Lanka had warned the authorities several times over the years Of the activities of the Community.

As the search for answers continued, there were already repercussions: Muslim fishermen in Batticaloa, in the east of the country, were attacked after the blasts, and Xavier says: "If this group ended up carrying out the attack, it could mean devastating days in the country."

After that happened, the attack at this very moment in Sri Lanka should not be a complete surprise; tensions have escalated since the end of the civil war; political competition has been disrupted; and following the bombings, there have been warnings of an impending attack.

Important events after the defeat of the «Tamil Tigers»

- May 2009:

The government declares defeat of the Tamil Tigers, after the army invaded the last area

Controlled by the rebels in the northeast, and the arrest of the leader of the Tamil Tigers

The new, Silvara Pathmanathan, is abroad by the Sri Lankan authorities.

- January 2010:

President Mahinda Rajapaksa re-elected by a big margin.

- March 2012:

UN Human Rights Council urges Sri Lanka to

To investigate war crimes allegedly committed during the final phase of the conflict.

- September 2013:

The opposition party of the National Alliance «Tamil» wins the first election of the Council

The semi-autonomous province in the north is 78% of the vote.

- January 2015:

Maitribala Seressina defeats Mahinda Rajapaksa in the presidential election,

Pledging accountability for alleged atrocities during the civil war.

- June 2016:

The government recognizes, for the first time, that some 65,000 people are missing as a result of the war.

- January 2017:

Police clashed with demonstrators, protesting against a plan to evacuate the villagers, to make way

The road to a port built by Chinese people near the coastal city of Hambantota.

- October 2018:

Parliament suspension.

- April 2019:

Easter attacks kill hundreds.

Source: emara

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