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The Easter church bombings in Sri Lanka have reminded us that nowhere is safe from the tyranny of Islamist terrorists.
The bombings have claimed at least 359 lives. Families have been destroyed because of these senseless deaths and a small nation has been shaken out of the comparative harmony it has enjoyed since its civil war ended. At least 45 children have died.
In a series of six co-ordinated attacks, three churches and three hotels were bombed in Negombo, Batticaloa and the capital, Colombo. Several people have been arrested over suspicion of involvement in the bombings. It is now known that the bombers were well-educated middle-class people: eight men and one woman linked to the radical Islamist group National Thowheed Jamath (NTJ).
Since the group is small and lacks resources, it probably received support from international terrorist organizations, otherwise it could not have carried out any operation on this scale. In fact, ISIS has claimed responsibility.
Some are suggesting the atrocity was retaliation for the attacks on two Christchurch mosques. But the Sri Lanka attacks required planning that would have predated the New Zealand event. In any case, Islamist bombing isn’t “because of” any action; they blow people up because they want to punish them for non-belief, and any justification is always just a pretext. This is the nature of the threat, and governments everywhere need to be aware of this.
I commented in my book The Case Against Jihad that the sheer randomness of terrorist attacks means no place or individual is safe from them. Terrorists will strike anywhere they perceive a prime target and have the means to kill.
Showing the depth of their malevolence, the killers chose Easter to inflict this misery — a significant occasion when churches would be full to celebrate what Christians believe heralds the resurrection of Christ. The damage was calculated to cause the most despair, not just in body count but also in emotional and symbolic terms.
Churches have been attacked at Easter in other places with religious conflict, such as Nigeria and Pakistan. Previously, Pakistan witnessed a series of attacks on churches at this time. Imran Khan, the cricketer turned politician who came to power in July last year, promised protection to the Pakistani Christian community. This year the military did indeed help keep Pakistan’s Christians safe in the face of credible plots to blow up churches at Easter.
The Sri Lankan government has belatedly apologized for failing to heed Indian-sourced warnings of a terrorist plot. It is baffling why the government would take the threat so lightly. Perhaps it doubted that such a small group as NTJ could wreak such havoc.
It should have known better. ISIS, cornered and driven out of its caliphate, would like nothing more than the opportunity to support an attack like this.
Its reach remains depressingly global, at least ideologically. The victims comprised mainly Sri Lankans but also Americans, Japanese, Indians, Chinese, Turks and Europeans.
Let this be a permanent reminder that no place is safe from terrorists. Intelligence organizations the world over need to smarten up to prevent tragedies like these. The terrorists have the advantage in the cat-and-mouse espionage game, as they are able to strike at will. However, this does not excuse the lapse by the government in Colombo, and all governments must learn from it.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019