In what was one of the biggest terror attacks in the south Asian region, six serial blasts ripped through Sri Lanka, early Sunday morning, striking three churches and two hotels, killing more than 50 and injuring nearly 400, in suspected suicide bombings in the heart of Colombo.
Even as Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe called for an urgent meeting to take stock of the situation, the episode has set alarm bells ringing in New Delhi. While no group or individual has taken responsibility of the attack, the episode – which hints at terror groups spreading their base in south Asia – has left Indian intelligence agencies working overtime to understand the nature and footprint of the attack.
The pattern of the attack – a series of coordinated blasts at high-value targets, intelligence units said – was atypical of the Da’esh.
“If you observe the pattern of the attack it is a classic Islamic State attack. A collective of people has been targeted using explosives. The government is working closely with Sri Lanka to get to the bottom of this. As of now, we are strongly suspecting IS because of the nature of the attack, but forensics will try to establish the explosive used, and the kind of detonator and other details to get to the bottom of this," said an intelligence official, who did not wish to be identified.
The above quoted official added that the sites of the attack had also been chosen with “great care so as to garner international attention. A coordinated blast on Easter has massive religious ramifications as well."
Another senior official, who did not wish to be identified, stated that even the National Investigation Agency (NIA) had been busting IS modules down south in Hyderabad and Kerala, there had been reports of some of these boys “gaining training from the middle east and being sent out of India."
“Two things must be kept in mind: We just know it was a suicide bombing but we don’t know who has done this. A lot of young men from the Indian subcontinent and areas such as Indonesia have been inducted by the IS to conduct such operations. That has yet to be established as to who was behind the attack," the official said.
While Sri Lanka has a history of violent struggles against militancy at the time when the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) was active in northeastern Sri Lanka, in areas such as Jaffna, the group – Indian officials stated – died a natural death after its supremo Velupillai Prabhakaran was killed by Sri Lankan troops in 2009.
“No Tamil fringe group is responsible for this attack. We have studied their pattern for years and this is unlike them. Work is on to establish who is behind the attack but in all likelihood, it looks like either the IS or a fringe group associated with the IS – we will know more by tomorrow (Monday) hopefully," said a senior Union home ministry official, requesting anonymity.
“Colombo - I am in constant touch with Indian High Commissioner in Colombo. We are keeping a close watch on the situation. @IndiainSL," Indian external Affairs minister Sushma Swaraj said in a Twitter post on Sunday.