On 21 April 2019, Easter Sunday, three Christian churches across Sri Lanka and three luxury hotels in the commercial capital Colombo were targeted in a series of coordinated terrorist suicide bombings. Later that day, there were smaller explosions at a housing complex in Dematagoda and a guest house in Dehiwala.
Approximately 253 people were reportedly killed, including at least 42 foreign nationals and three police officers, and at least 500 were injured. The church bombings were carried out during Easter services in places such as Negombo, Batticaloa and Colombo; the hotels that were bombed were the Shangri-La, Cinnamon Grand, Kingsbury and Tropical Inn.
In further events, a minor explosion of a motorbike was recorded in Savoy Cinema, Colombo during raids conducted by police officers on 24 April 2019.
On 25 April 2019, another minor controlled explosion of a motorbike was reported at a bus stand in Moratuwa during police raids. On 26 April 2019, three explosions and a shootout occurred during a raid in Sainthamaruthu. Three suicide bombers blew themselves up, killing nine of their family members, including six children, while three terrorists were shot dead during the gun battle. A civilian was also killed and two others injured during the shooting. A curfew was later imposed in the area indefinitely.
According to Sri Lankan government officials, all seven of the suicide bombers in the attacks were Sri Lankan citizens associated with National Towheed Jama'ath, a local militant Islamist group with suspected foreign ties, previously known for attacks against Buddhists.
It is reported that State Minister of Defence Ruwan Wijewardene said in parliament on 23 April that the government believed the attack was in retaliation for the attack against Muslims in Christchurch (New Zealand) on 15 March 2019. The direct linkage between the two attacks was questioned by New Zealand's government and by some experts.
On 23 April 2019, Amaq News Agency, believed to be the propaganda outlet for the ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) reportedly stated that the perpetrators of the attacks in Sri Lanka were "Islamic State fighters″.
The overwhelming majority of those killed were Sri Lankans citizens while foreigners did not escape from the attacks. It is reported that foreign holiday makers (about 350 from Germany and Britain alone) currently in Sri Lanka have been offered early flights to repatriate from Sri Lanka. It is reported that an European Travel group (TUI) are cancelling all trips to Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka fears that its lucrative tourism industry could see a loss of 30% ($15 billion) this financial year.
The attacks by Islamic militant groups did not end in Sri Lanka, a danger looms large on West Bengal and Bangladesh. It is reported that a poster, released on 28th April, reads "Shighroi Aschhe (coming soon), Inshallah." and has the logo of a group called al Mursalat.
Sources in an intelligence agency confirmed that such a poster was in circulation and that it was being looked into, reports Times of India.
Intelligence agencies have taken the poster seriously as the IS has just carried out deadly serial blasts in Sri Lanka through local outfit Tawheed Jamaat.
It is reported that some JMB operatives have also been known to frequent Kolkata and others parts of West Bengal and neighbouring states for recruitment and establishing hideouts.
In February this year, a JMB operative, Ariful Islam, was arrested from the Babughat area in Kolkata. He was one of the accomplices in the Bodh Gaya blast, which took place in 2018.
Earlier, JMB had set up a module in Assam as well and the arrested operatives had disclosed that the outfit was using Chirang area of Lower Assam district as a training centre, an officer recalled.
Three years ago, local JMB sleeper cells had put up posters in several districts of West Bengal asking the youth to join the terrorist organisation. Last July, US agency FBI had interrogated ISIS-JMB terrorist Mohammed Musiruddin a.k.a Musa arrested by the West Bengal CID from a train at Burdwan station.
On 28 2018, it is reported that Kawser, a Bangladeshi with links with JMB was arrested in Khagragarh twin blast case in Burdwan (West Bengal).
It is interesting to note that a few reformist Jamaat-e-Islami leaders floated a new political party on 30th April through a press conference held in the city. However, no committee for the new party was announced though the leaders said, it will be done in due time.
It is reported that Mojibur Rahman Monju, an expelled Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami Majlis-e-Shura member, said it at a press conference in a city hotel that they had already formed five committees to launch the new party with the slogan "Jana Akhankhar Bangladesh".
Monju, who is working as a Coordinator of the platform, said that their party would not be a religion based one, as representations of all communities will be there.
It may be recalled that on February 15, Jamaat Assistant Secretary General Barrister Abdur Razzaq quit the party, citing its failure to apologise for its role in the War for Independence of Bangladesh and to bring reforms to its manifesto.
The following day, Mujibur Rahman (Manju), a member of Jamaat's policy-making body 'Majlish-e-Shura', who had been vocal about bringing reforms to the party, was expelled on charge of "breaching discipline" and "anti-party activities".
But Mujibur, said that Razzaq was not involved with the new outfit, nor the ruling Awami League helped them of any short.
Jamaat inter sources said, a faction of the Jamaat-e-Islam had called for party reforms after the war crimes trials were started against the party leaders over their role in the Liberation War in 1971.
Last year, the party's Assistant Secretary General Abdur Razzak issued an apology for Jamaat's role in the Liberation War before resigning from the party, adding impetus to the demands for change.
Tajul Islam, the lawyer for Jamaat leaders facing trial for war crimes, also attended the media briefing. Confirming his affiliation with the organisation, Tajul reportedly said that he was not involved with the Jamaat before but had only defended its leaders in his capacity as a lawyer.
Jammat internal sources said that Jamaat 'not worried' over some former leaders' initiative to float new party.
Jamaat, which lost its registration as a political party before the 11th general election, removed Monju as a member of its Dhaka metropolitan unit's policymaking body Majlis-e-Shura, on February 15, for demanding a reform within the party.
In January, 2019 it is reported that Law Minister Anisul Huq said that an initiative to amend the International Crimes Tribunal Act has been taken so that Jamaat can be brought under trial as a political party for its role in 1971.
Barrister Harun ur Rashid, Former Bangladesh Ambassador to the UN, Geneva
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