The bombing of three Christian churches and hotels in Sri Lanka during the Easter holiday have caught many by surprise. Since the end of the 1983-2009 civil war, the nation has not been subjected to religious persecution or militant Islamist violence.
Religious Violence or Political Revenge?
Philip Giraldi, a former counter-terrorism specialist and CIA military intelligence officer, agreed that the sudden outbreak of religious violence against the Christian minority of the small island nation had prompted a lot of confusion.
According to the country's 2011 census, 70 percent of Sri Lankans are Theravada Buddhists and 13 percent are Hindus, while only 9.7 and 7.4 percent are Muslims and Christians, respectively.
"It did not make sense unless the objective was to embarrass the Sri Lankan government for its failure to provide security", Giraldi told Sputnik.
Adam Garrie, a geopolitical analyst and director of Eurasia Future, believes that besides the religious violence motive, some forces could have sought to drag the nation back into internal violence.
"The fact that Sri Lanka's Muslim population is very small and has long lived in harmony with the Buddhist majority makes it clear that the material gain that terrorists, for example, in Syria sought to attain, is simply not a credible motive for the attackers in Sri Lanka," the analyst noted.
The LTTE was founded in May 1976 by Velupillai Prabhakaran and sought to create an independent state of Tamil Eelam in the north and east of Sri Lanka.
"This seems to be the overriding message that the terrorists wanted to send. After a decade of peace, the enemies of Sri Lanka no longer want peace-loving Sri Lankans to feel safe. The terrorists also had a self-evident motive of harming Sri Lanka's post-war economic recovery," the geopolitical analyst suggested, in an apparent reference to the country's travel industry, which remains a crucial source of wealth for the nation.
On 23 April, Daesh (ISIS/ISIL)* reportedly claimed responsibility for the deadly attacks, while Sri Lankan Minister of Defense Ruwan Wijewardene suggested that the bombings were carried out in retaliation for the mass shooting that transpired in two New Zealand mosques in March.
'A Crime of Opportunity': Why Sri Lanka Was an Easy Target for Terrorists
Tom McGregor, a Beijing-based political analyst, and senior editor and commentator for China's national broadcaster CCTV, highlighted that the attack was carried out by Islamists "seeking to disrupt the social order and targeting Christians".
"Obviously, this was an attack by radical Islamists seeking to disrupt the social order and targeting Christians. Media reports have already disclosed that and we are likely to hear more details soon. Supposedly, some are claiming this is revenge over the shooting spree at a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, but the real story is it was just a crime of opportunity," McGregor opined.
According to the journalist, the terrorists "look at Sri Lanka as an easy target".
He referred to the complexity of the crime and cast doubt upon the professionalism of Sri Lankan police: "The terrorists, seeing so many flaws and weaknesses in Sri Lanka's public security, had ample time and ability to gain possession of bombs and weapons, which is deeply disturbing."
Sri Lankan Bombers & Their External Backers
The Sri Lankan authorities suggested that National Thowheeth Jamaath, a little known Islamic terrorist organisation, previously known for vandalising Buddhist statues, was involved in the attacks.
According to Garrie, "based on what little is known about this small and obscure group, it appears to be little more than a front for a larger agent of terror, most likely a foreign state intelligence agency working with and funding the terrorists on the ground".
"It is almost certain that the terrorists on the ground had external assistance," he believes.
For his part, McGregor warned that there could be "many terrorist cells in the country still operating without hindrance, with others having already fled the country without much interference".
"That's alarming and be prepared for more terrorism attacks in the near future as these criminals feel more emboldened to hit bigger targets and they will probably be Christians and churches," the journalist underscored.
On 21 April, blasts erupted in the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo, Negombo, a town north of Colombo, and in Batticaloa, a town on the east coast, claiming the lives of 359 people. Christian churches and hotels were the primary targets.
According to Agence France Presse, the Sri Lankan police issued an intelligence alert 10 days before the attacks, saying that suicide bombers planned to blast "prominent churches". As CNN noted on 23 April, the early warning was based on information obtained from a Daesh* suspect.
*Daesh (ISIS/ISIL/Islamic State) is a terrorist group banned in Russia.
The views expressed in this article are solely those of the contributor and the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Sputnik.