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Sri Lankans do not deserve to be killed in Churches or Hotels. And why it happened.

April 22, 2019

I was contemplating writing a post to celebrate the ten years since of the end the Sri Lankan Civil War soon. It would have talked about the benefits of peace; the wonders of safety and security for the population; the freedom to live without fear of suicide bombers and the contentment that the horrors of terrorism had been eliminated from the island.  I was so happy to have a 25 year burden taken away from a population that did not deserve to suffer endlessly and could hardly cope with endless cycles of violence.  It would have been a story of the triumph of peace over war.  Yet all that changed yesterday when bombs targeting Catholic Churches and hotels suddenly exploded across the island.  Make no mistake  Sri Lanka was just issued a bloody declaration of war by a group of people who had no qualms about killing helpless innocents who prayed in churches to celebrate the holiest day of their year.   Yet that was not enough for the monsters who planned this terrible crime, they wanted to teach some people staying at hotels that they too were fodder for their death machine.

Church-negombo

At last count, there have been 207 people killed as a result of these co-ordinated bombings.  Some estimate say that between 400-600 people have injured.  This is the largest deliberate attack upon civilians in Sri Lanka for more 10 years. Even throughout the civil war I am struggling to make comparisons. The blast at the Central Bank Colombo and the bombing of the bus stand in central Colombo are two example of carnage on this scale.  However, most of the attacks by the LTTE were limited in to killing dozens rather than hundreds of people. In the case of the Central Bank in Colombo, it is widely accepted that bomb was prematurely detonated before reaching its likely target in the Fort District.  Targets by the terrorist in most cases were selected for their strategic and psychological importance.  Train stations, buses and the International Airport were aimed at intimidating the population and  inflicting economic damage to the tourist and financial stability of Sri Lanka.  At the early part of the Sri Lankan conflict the LTTE did target Buddhist religion sites when in 1985 the LTTE burst into the Temple of the Sacred Bodhi tree in Anrudapura and gunned down dozens of Buddhist monks as they prayed.  Another major direct attack on religious site was in the earlier 1990’s when a truck laden with high explosives was detonated out side the Temple of Tooth in Kandy.  Few people were killed in this second bast but the Temple of the Tooth was damaged.  In both cases the motivation of the attack was designed to stir up rage to the point that Buddhist people would rise up and take revenge upon the Tamil population like what occurred in the 1983 pogrom.  In the later case government officials and leader warned people not to be provoked into giving the LTTE their propaganda victory by rioting.

In the Civil War Christian and Catholic site were rarely, if ever targeted.  This was because ethnic Catholics are comprise of large numbers of Tamils and Sinhalese.  It would have been a PR disaster for the LTTE to target Tamils as they prayed in churches and would kill any ethnic sympathy for the LTTE shared with Catholic Tamils.  Even at the height of the Civil War both the government forces and the LTTE were so terrified of losing Catholic sympathy that they avoided letting the famous Madhu Church for being destroyed in the crossfire that they deserted the area.  Nor has the LTTE ever directly targeted foreigners. The bottom line here is that the attacks on Easter morning 2019 do not have any hallmarks of a typical LTTE terrorist action.  It comes across as action of an organisation who cares more about secular and ideological differences than ethnic ones.  Targeting hotels was ideological but targeting churched is in the realm of a holy war mentality. 

Make no mistake, there is a plan here.  To co-ordinate six explosions in churches and hotels requires sophistication, careful planning, logistics, weapons and explosive, and a large quantity of money.  Nothing could happen unless there were finances to by the material for the explosives.  Planning would have to have taken weeks, if months, and the secrecy of the those involved was paramount. 

The Sri Lanka of 2019 is a very different environment than the Sri Lanka of 2009 when the Civil ended.  The LTTE are a dead organisation with no ability to revive its long term object of separatism.  Its armies are defeated and it leaders decimated.  Their overseas propaganda and fundraising units are splintered and fighting over the last scraps of an imploded empire.  No one is charge and as a result they are in complete disarray.  They no longer have the resources to plan and carry out attacks of this nature.  This attack has come from a new direction, but where.

10 days before the attack there were security report that churches were going to be targeted by a radical Islamic organisation.

“Sri Lanka Blasts Live Updates: 156 dead, over 500 injured in six explosions on Easter,” Economic Times, April 21, 2019:

* “A foreign intelligence agency has reported that the NTJ (National Thowheeth Jama’ath) is planning to carry out suicide attacks targeting prominent churches as well as the Indian high commission in Colombo,” said the alert.

* NTJ is a radical Muslim group in Sri Lanka that came to notice last year when it was linked to the vandalization of Buddhist statues.

Two of the attacks have been confirmed as being carried out by suicide bombers.

It has also been announced that Sri Lankan security forces have 7 suspects in custody.

Editorial Comment:

On personal note, as you would expect there have many calls to Sri Lanka from my home.  

Of greatest concern were cousin of my wife from Negombo whose regular parish church is St. Sebastian where one of the attacks took place.

One cousin said that they happened to be attending a funeral in Colombo at the time of the blast.  Otherwise they would have attended St. Sebastian’s.

Another two cousins of my wife did go to the St. Sebastion’s Easter mass at the time of the attack.

One was sitting at the front of the church when he took his sone out to visit the bathroom moments before the blast.

The other cousin his brother decided to stand outside because the church was so packed and hot.  As a result both narrowly missed death and injury.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. April 22, 2019 1:32 pm

    Very interesting article. I wrote something similar on my blog. It would be great if you could check it out and let me know what you think.

    Liked by 1 person

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