Daesh claims responsibility for brutal attacks in Sri Lanka which killed 310 people

A series of vicious bomb attacks in Sri Lanka, on 21 April, Easter Sunday, severely damaged three churches, as well inflicting damage on three top-grade tourist hotels. The attacks left over 253 dead and 500 wounded, and damaging Sri Lanka’s most promising product, with the greatest investment potential, tourism. What will be the effect of these attacks on the industry? Undoubtedly, there will be a hiatus, as alarmed tourists cancel their travel plans. However, this hiatus also provides an opportunity for investors.


The organisation calling itself ad-Dawlah al-Islāmiyah (“Islamic State”) has claimed responsibility for the series of terrorist suicide-bomb attacks on churches and hotels in Sri Lanka. The organisation, commonly abbreviated as “Daesh”, also known widely as ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) or ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the the Levant), has reportedly claimed the island as one of its “territories”.

“Those who carried out the attack that targeted members of the US-led coalition and Christians in Sri Lanka the day before yesterday are Islamic State group fighters,” the terror group said in a statement through its “Amaq” news agency, two days after the attack.

In a statement released on 23 April, Daesh gave the noms de guerre of seven people who it said were behind the “blessed attack” that targeted Christians during their “blasphemous holiday”, referring to Easter. It also released a photo of eight men it said were behind the blasts. Seven of them had their faces covered and three of them held knives. The one man who displayed his bearded face also appeared to carry an assault rifle.

It later released a video showing the eight fighters swearing allegiance to Daesh supremo Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. It gave the noms-de guerre Abu Hamza, Abu Khalil and Abu Mohammad as the three attackers respectively of the three churches in Colombo, Katana and Batticaloa. The cover story of the 179th edition of Daesh’s Al Naba bulletin, praising the Easter bombings, contained an infographic, in several languages describing the attack.

After its massive defeat in conventional battles in Iraq and Syria in 2017, Daesh has shifted its global strategy gradually towards guerrilla warfare, attacking soft civilian targets rather than hard military ones and refusing to defend its territory.

It has counselled its supporters on the virtue of Sabr (as Arabic term meaning patience, endurance, perseverance, steadfastness and resilience). Sabr is a strategy used by Islamist militant groups such as Al Qaeda, to merge into the population and emerge from time to time to carry out terrorist attacks.

In order to strengthen further the fortitude of its cadres and their commitment to the Sabr strategy, analysts say that Daesh will probably depend very much on propaganda regarding attacks on soft targets outside its traditional spheres of operation – especially in Africa, South and South East Asia, and Europe.

Church attacks

Therefore, the incidents in Sri Lanka, cannot be taken in isolation as only concerning Sri Lanka. It is part of a global problem. In the last few years, there have been attacks on Christians or their places of worship every Easter. There have also been attacks on the other most holy day for Christians, Christmas.

A series bomb of blasts and shootings took place during Christmas Day church services in MadallaJosGadaka, and Damaturu in northern Nigeria on 25 December 2011, killing 41people. The Islamic State in Western Africa, better known as Boko Haram, claimed responsibility. Since then many attacks have taken place on Christians and their places of worship in Asia and Africa.

In 2012, an Easter Sunday attack on a church in Kaduna, about 230 km north of Kano, Nigeria, killed 25 people and wounded 13. On Maundy Thursday, 2015, Islamist gunmen executed 148 Christians at the Garissa University, 370 kms from Nairobi, Kenya.

At least 72 people died in a suicide bombing in the crowded Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park in Lahore, Pakistan, directed at Pakistani Christians who were celebrating Easter Sunday, 2016.

On Palm Sunday, 9 April 2017, twin suicide bombings took place northern Egypt: the first at St. George’s Church in Tanta on the Nile Delta; and the second at the seat of the Coptic papacy, St Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral, the principal church in Alexandria, where Coptic Patriarch Tawadros II led a Palm Sunday service. At least 45 people were reported killed and 126 injured.

On Easter Monday last year, gunmen attacked Christians in Quetta in Pakistan’s Balochistan province and the next day an armed group attacked a village church in the Punjab.

In January this year a Muslim Imam foiled a potentially devastating attempted bombing of a church in Cairo on the eve of the Coptic Christmas. At least 18 people were killed when a Catholic cathedral was hit by a double bomb attack in Jolo in the southern Philippines on Sunday, 27 January this year.

Then, a week after the Sri Lanka Easter attack, on 28 April, came an attack on a rural church in Burkino Faso, which killed at least five people. Thus a pattern of attacks on Christian churches appears to have been established worldwide.

Watch out

Since Sri Lanka has not been harmful to Daesh, and neither, hitherto, has the Islamic State been harmful to Sri Lanka, the least amount of attention has been paid to its activities in Sri Lanka. Therefore, Daesh may have selected Sri Lanka as the best place to do a pilot project. This project is probably a trial to see how they can carry out serial attacks in a significant way, to have that devastating effect to make the world start paying attention to Daesh so that their bargaining power goes up, and their fund-raising and recruiting potential also increase. This is the reason why they have selected Sri Lanka and carried this out.

Now the world has to watch out for the next country. They are going to repeat this. The world has to come forward and do a thorough study of the operation here to see how they have planned it, and be prepared for the next attack in any country. There is a potential risk of a bigger and more devastating attack in another country for the next Easter.

Daesh provided preview of what might be in store in 2016, when two young men with knives burst into a church in St-Étienne-Du-Rouvray, France, took the worshippers hostage and slit the throat of an 85-year old priest. Daesh claimed its “soldiers” had attacked the church “in response to the call to target Crusader coalition states.”

These attacks can be considered part of a Daesh offensive against what it refers to as mushrikin – polytheists; considering Christians in that category. The 174th issue of Al Naba contained an editorial arguing that it was “ignorant” to think that the “Islamic State waits for an attack like this on Muslim’s mosques to incite its soldiers to kill mushrikin.”

“The Islamic State’s jihad and fight against mushrikin is a duty even if they were weak and can’t harm Muslims, as long as they lack faith and covenant,” the editorial reads. Al Naba’s editors added that the “war waged by Crusader nations against Muslims did not start when one of their citizens attacked the mosques” in New Zealand. Instead, this religious war “is ongoing, hasn’t stopped and will not stop.”

Life goes on

Daesh does not limit itself to attacking Christians. It has been engaged in targeting tourists and tourist destinations. Last December, in separate attacks in Morocco and Egypt, Daesh killed two Scandinavian women hikers and three Vietnamese tourists.

Intelligence sources informed Britain’s Sunday Telegraph that the Daesh collapse in Syria and Iraq has paved the way for more attacks on tourists, such as those in Sri Lanka, globally, but particularly in South Asia and East Africa.

Does this mean that people will not attend Easter or Christmas Mass, or that tourists will not visit countries? It does not. This should be the case for Sri Lanka too. Similar to other countries, Sri Lanka will take necessary measures for security, and people will be able to visit Sri Lanka in reasonable safety. We have come to that point today where life will go on. People will travel all over the world, including to Sri Lanka.

The world should not take Sri Lanka in isolation, as a “dangerous place”. We face a global menace. There are dangers in various parts of the world. Sri Lanka is the victim for this year.

The question posed here is, can the government of Sri Lanka give assurances that the country is SAFE again? Can the government make Sri Lanka safe again?

The answer to that question is YES. In the context of Sri Lanka, safety and normality can be brought back again. Because we are an island and because we have a very good team of intelligence experts, we shall be able to curb this threat.


Unlike many other countries in the world Sri Lanka has the following advantages:

  • A highly experienced Military with hands-on experience of combatting one of the deadliest terrorist outfits in the world, in a 30-year civil war.
  • Household visits paid by nearly 10 state officials to individual households for matters pertaining to health, agriculture, delivery of utility bills such as water and electricity and also regular visits paid by the Grama Niladhari, the neighbourhood government administrative official.
  • Sri Lanka also has a society that would rapidly respond to reward-based tip-offs.


Using the above mentioned officials and armed forces the government can carry out search operations immediately. Said officials could form a committee headed by the Grama Niladhari and submit a formal report, under their signature, to the head of the state regarding each individual household and their probability of having involvements / links to terrorist outfits of this kind. This search could be ideally carried out in a single day under a 24-hour curfew.

Suspects and those attempting to flee may be apprehended by security personnel. Therefore when the blanket search has been completed and the report produced the President should issue an assurance of the level of safety linked to a percentage as found in the combined report on average.

In terms of tourism, this is an opportunity for investors. The tourism industry will experience a short-term decrease in price when it comes to acquiring leisure-related properties. The buyer or investor has a better bargaining point, because there is a threat of the tourism industry being affected.  This is thus a good buyer’s market for investors who have the holding power to wait out the short-term until the upturn.

If other countries want to impose a travel ban on Sri Lanka, they should be imposing a travel ban on any outward-bound tourism!


Lolitha Abeysinghe


SL-THE Investment Magazine

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