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How important are the Sri Lanka bombings for ISIS’s revival?
The magnitude and complexity of the Sri Lanka April 21, 2019 bombings in churches and luxury hotels across the country, by an obscure local jihadi (?) group, National Thowheeth Jama'ath (NTJ), have immediately raised the question, in the country and in the international arena, if this is not actually a campaign by the defeated ISIS, and a strong sign of its global revival.
Indeed, on April 23, ISIS has officially claimed responsibility for the Sri Lanka attacks via its Amaq news agency by releasing a video of the Sri Lanka suicide bombers pledging allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr Baghdadi. Issue 179 of the Islamic State weekly Al-Naba', released online on April 25, 2019, highlighted the Sri Lanka attacks, praising its perpetrators and presenting it as a fulfillment of ISIS's threat to the "Crusaders."
Finally, on April 29, the Islamic State released a rare video in which its leader Abu-Bakr al-Baghdadi has made his first appearance in nearly five years. In the only audio portion of this video, a short footage depicts the Sri Lanka attackers pledging allegiance to IS and scenes of the aftermath of the attacks. Al-Baghdadi's voice says: "You brothers in Sri Lanka have pleased the monotheists by their commando operations that unsettled the Crusaders [including some Americans and Europeans] in their Easter celebration to avenge their brothers in Baghuz.” He highlighted the “high number of casualties from among the Crusaders.”
This paper will describe in detail the sequence of events in Sri Lanka, the known information about the groups involved and the main figures behind the suicide bombings and what is known about the participation of Sri Lankan jihadists in the ranks of ISIS in Syria and Iraq.
However, several points should be stressed, which should mitigate the impact of this major terrorist event and put it in its real proportions.
The most important is the fact that the success of the terrorist massacres is not only the result of the professionalism of the terrorists, as much as of the incredible intelligence and operational blunder, one could even call it criminal negligence, of the Sri Lankan political and security authorities.
This article is part of the RED-Alert project, funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation Programme under grant agreement No 740688.