Sri Lanka Easter attacks

This item appears on page 18 of the June 2019 issue.

A series of coordinated bombings occurred in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday, April 21, killing at least 259 people and injuring more than 500. Suicide bombers targeted three churches celebrating Easter Mass, in Colombo, Batticaloa and Negombo, as well as three hotel lobbies in Colombo serving breakfast.

The group responsible for the bombings was identified as National Thowheed Jamath (NTJ), an Islamist extremist group that had not committed any acts of terrorism before. Police arrested at least 24 people right after the attacks.

Sri Lankan authorities had been warned by multiple foreign intelligence agencies that NTJ was planning to target churches, but those warnings were not shared with the nation’s leaders, and it was not believed that the group was capable of attacks of this magnitude. It is believed the attackers had help from a foreign group or groups, which had not been identified as of press time. Islamist militant group Daesh (ISIL) claimed to be involved.

After investigations, Sri Lankan authorities arrested more than 150 people suspected of being involved in the attack or otherwise aiding NTJ. During a police raid on April 26, at least seven people were killed, including three children, when occupants of a suspected NTJ hideout killed themselves with explosives. Three others were killed at that time in a shootout with police.