On Sunday morning, coordinated suicide bombers struck several Christian churches and luxury hotels in the cities of Batticaloa, Colombo and Negombo. At least 290 people were killed and hundreds more injured. And sadly, it sounds like the Sri Lanka government had been warned that an attack like this might occur on Easter. Intelligence agencies from the U.S. and India warned the Sri Lankan government weeks ago. Through a series of government missteps the Sri Lankan government didn’t do enough, or perhaps anything at all, to investigate the threat. I actually just read multiple accounts that the Sri Lankan government has issued an apology for not taking the threat seriously enough. Of course, after the fact - that really does sound like empty words to me.
Anyway. An obscure Muslim military group called the National Thowfeek Jamaath (NTJ) is being blamed for the Easter morning terrorist attacks. But Sri Lanka Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne said that official investigation turned up evidence that the NTJ did not act alone, telling reporters: "We do not believe these attacks were carried out by a group of people who were confined to this country … There was an international network without which these attacks could not have succeeded."
Sri Lanka is actually, mostly a Buddhist country, with something like 70% of the population identifying as Buddhist. According to the US State Department, the remaining 30% of the population identifies as approx. 12% Hindu, 10% Muslim, 7% Christian with the remaining few percentage points coming in as “other/none.” Even though the Muslim population is comparatively small, tension between the Muslim/Buddhist communities have flared up after a series of back and forth aggressive actions that began, supposedly, a few years ago when a young Buddhist man was attacked and killed by a group of young Muslim men.
Sri Lanka has seen the face of violence many times since 1948, when the country gained independence from Britain. Mostly the violence was from the almost three decade civil war that went from the early 80’s all the way to 2009. A civil war that ripped the country apart and left an estimated 150,000 casualties in its wake. But since the end of the civil war, the country has been relatively free from large scale violence for a decade, which is why Sunday’s coordinated bombing attacks was so shocking.
As of today, 24 suspects linked to the attack have been arrested. Here is a partial list of some of the victims with information about their lives. If you want to help, here is a link to the Sri Lanka Red Cross.