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Sri Lanka bombing death aid rises to 290 in “brand new type of terrorism”

Police have arrested 24 people in connection with the suicide bombers, the worst violence the South Asian island has seen since its bloody civil war ended 10 years ago.A ninth impromptu explosive device (IED) was dismissed near the capital Bandaranaike International Airport on Sunday night, according to a spokesman for the Air Force. The blasts seem to have targeted tourism hotspots, as well as churches, in an effort to get maximum global attention.Foreign citizens are among the dead, including five British citizens, two of whom held two American British citizens, three Indians, two Chinese cousins, one from the Netherlands, two Turkish citizens and one Portuguese person.No group has claimed responsibility for the attacks, but the Sri Lankan Defense Minister Ruwan Wijewardene said the "terrorist accident" was carried out by those who followed "religious extremism". On Sunday evening, it was revealed in a leaked note that the police were warned of a potential attack by Nations Thawahid Jaman (NTJ), an Islamist group led by Mohomad Saharan. It is unclear whether the information related to Sunday's bombing. The Prime Minister of Sri Lanka has said that he and other ministers had not been warned. Sajith Premadasa, Minister of Housing and Cultural Affairs, said the officers had acted with "neglect and incompetence". However, analysts have warned against rushing to conclusions. Dhruva Jaishankar, a colleague of foreign policy studies at Brookings India, said that NTJ is a lesser-known group, which has previously exposed Buddhist statues, and it was unlikely that it would have the…

Police have arrested 24 people in connection with the suicide bombers, the worst violence the South Asian island has seen since its bloody civil war ended 10 years ago.

A ninth impromptu explosive device (IED) was dismissed near the capital Bandaranaike International Airport on Sunday night, according to a spokesman for the Air Force. The blasts seem to have targeted tourism hotspots, as well as churches, in an effort to get maximum global attention.

Foreign citizens are among the dead, including five British citizens, two of whom held two American British citizens, three Indians, two Chinese cousins, one from the Netherlands, two Turkish citizens and one Portuguese person.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attacks, but the Sri Lankan Defense Minister Ruwan Wijewardene said the “terrorist accident” was carried out by those who followed “religious extremism”.

On Sunday evening, it was revealed in a leaked note that the police were warned of a potential attack by Nations Thawahid Jaman (NTJ), an Islamist group led by Mohomad Saharan. It is unclear whether the information related to Sunday’s bombing.

The Prime Minister of Sri Lanka has said that he and other ministers had not been warned. Sajith Premadasa, Minister of Housing and Cultural Affairs, said the officers had acted with “neglect and incompetence”.

However, analysts have warned against rushing to conclusions. Dhruva Jaishankar, a colleague of foreign policy studies at Brookings India, said that NTJ is a lesser-known group, which has previously exposed Buddhist statues, and it was unlikely that it would have the capacity or sophistication to perform an attack like Sunday without any help.

Although there is a known transnational Islamist presence in places like Pakistan, Malaysia and the Philippines, Jaishankar says it is little known about Islamic radicalism in Sri Lanka and that it was “premature” to speculate on which organizations might have been involved.

Christianity is a minority religion in Sri Lanka, which accounts for less than 10% of the total population of 21.4 million. According to census data, 70.2% of Sri Lankans identify as Buddhist, 12% Hindu, 9.7% Muslim and 7.4% Christian.

It is estimated that 82% of Sri Lankan Christians are Roman Catholic.

A social media blackout has been enforced that the authorities are trying to contain the violence and determine who did the attacks and why.

How it evolved

The first wave of attacks was struck during packed Easter Sunday services.

More than 1000 people had come to the explosion sites, Sebastian’s church, according to Father Edmond Tillekeratne, social communications director of the archbishop of Colombo.

When Easter service began at churches in the cities of Colombo, Negombo and Batticaloa, the bombs burst their units. The bombs blew out the tiled roofs of the tiles and killed worshipers in the process. Pictures showed bloody pews, broken glass and smoky plum.

“You can see pieces of meat thrown over the walls and on the sanctuary and even outside the church,” said Tillekeratne.

More blasts ripped through three luxury hotels in the capital Colombo: Shangri La, Cinnamon Grand and Kingsbury, popular with foreign tourists and the country’s business. At Shangri-La, the bomb was detonated just after 9 o’clock at the Table One table as a holiday maker and guests have breakfast.

Jaishankar, who has visited the three hotels, said it was “very little security” in any of the arenas.

Another blast rocked a hotel in front of Dehiwala Zoo in Dehiwala-Mount Lavinia. The last blast struck a private house in Mahawila Gardens, in Dematagoda, during a blow in connection with the attacks, officials said. Three police officers were killed.

In recent years, Sri Lanka has become a holiday destination and welcomed 2.2 million incoming visitors in 2017, compared to just over one million in 2012, giving tourists an affordable alternative to tropical destinations such as the Maldives.

On Monday morning, the city’s beach hotel, where several of the bombs were fought, was heavily guarded by soldiers carrying AK47s and bombers-crushing dogs at closed hotel gates where guests were checked in.

Rise of ISIS in Asia

Premadasa, the Sri Lankan minister, called Sunday’s attacks a “brand new type of terrorism”.

“We haven’t had any separatist movements over the last 10 years and it came as a shock to us all,” he said.

The civil war between the separatist Tamil and the Sri Lankan government ended in 2009, having claimed between 70,000 and 80,000 lives. Managing that conflict, Premadasa said, had prepared the government to deal with terrorism.

“During the 30-year terrorist war, there were discriminatory attacks on all institutions, they (the Tamil Tigers) do not save anyone in their way to a separatist state, but we were won to defeat terrorism,” he added.

 Bomb wounds through Sri Lankan churches and hotels and kill 290 people.

The goals of the attacks – The churches packed with the believers on Easter Sunday and three five-star hotels catering to foreigners – have existed in previous bombings in the Asia region and beyond recent years.

In January 2019, ISIS claimed responsibility for an attack that killed at least 20 in a church in the Philippines. The attack also took place on a Sunday, when worshipers gathered for mass.

In May 2018, ISIS demanded responsibility for carrying out attacks in three churches in Indonesia, killing at least 12 people and injuring dozens more. And in 2017, ISIS killed on Palm Sunday, at least 49 people gathered for mass at two churches in Egypt.

The collapse of the ISIS caliphate in Iraq and Syria has sent as many as 5,600 foreign warriors back to their homeland since October 2017.

Jaishankar said Sri Lanka may have become self-proclaimed for terrorism since the end of its civil war. “This can stop being an alarm clock for that,” he added.

CNN’s Tara John and CNN National Security Analyst Peter Bergen also contributed to this report. Journalist Sandun Arosha reported from Colombo, Sri Lanka.

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