Sri Lanka Attacks: The Hunt For IS-Linked Suspects—And An Unusual Pattern
The last religious target attack with a high number of casualties took place in 1990, when terrorists attacked four mosques and left over 150 dead.
Five days after the suicide attacks on churches and hotels that killed over 250 people, the Sri Lanka police chief resigned from his post while security forces are still looking for 140 people suspected to have links to the Islamic State.
Calling for political unity in the wake of the attacks, Sri Lanka president Maithripala Sirisena claimed that security officials kept him in the dark by not sharing intelligence reports from friendly nations. He warned that Sri Lanka was a target for extremists.
He also blamed Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe's government for focusing on prosecuting intelligence officials after the country's civil war and weakening national security in the process.
The security on Sri Lanka’s streets is very much visible.
According to military officials, nearly 10 thousand soldiers have been deployed across the country to carry out searches and provide security for religious centres.
In Negombo, Muslim communities have already fled their homes amid bomb scares and threats of mob violence. But, people in the capital also say that despite the uncertainty, they can't stay away from their jobs any longer.
Security forces have been focusing their investigations on international links to two domestic Islamic groups, who they believe carried out the attacks.
An Unusual Pattern
Around 16,000 people died in terror incidents in Sri Lanka since 1970, data from Global Terrorism Index shows. However, only 4.15 per cent (655) of the fatalities from such attacks were targeted at religious sites.
And that’s why the Sri Lanka Easter Sunday terror attack stands apart. If you look closer at the 253 deaths, the data drops down to 2.56 per cent. The last religious target attack with a rather high number of casualties took place in 1990, when terrorists attacked four mosques and left over 150 dead.
Data also shows that there were very few casualties from terrorist violence after the decimation of the LTTE in the 2009 civil war.
Even the infamous terror organisation, the Islamic State, attacked fewer religious targets. According to the Global Terrorism Index, only 2 per cent of the total 39,000 casualties from 2013-19 (data for 2018 wasn’t available) due to IS terror attacks, were on religious sites.