The Sri Lankan government has said the Easter Sunday bombings that killed over 350 people were a retaliation for a white terrorist gunning down 50 people in two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, on March 15 last.
Investigators have said local Islamist organisation National Thowheed Jamath (NTJ) was behind the attacks, possibly with help from international networks. The Islamic State (IS) has claimed responsibility for the attacks through its Amaq news agency and released a photograph of what it claimed to be the bombers, according to some reports.
It’s not clear if the Sri Lankan suicide bombers planned and executed the attacks in over a month’s time since the Christchurch killings or if they were planning such bombings for a longer period and then linked it to Christchurch. Whatever the actual reason is, it escapes common sense that why Sri Lanka has been chosen.
IS's centre-periphery model
Sri Lanka doesn’t have anything to do with the Christchurch shootings. Nor has it played any role in the West’s wars in the Muslim world, a common excuse the IS gives for its attacks on western countries and civilians. Sri Lanka also doesn’t have a history of Islamist terror. But this is not how the IS looks at the whole issue. First, it doesn’t actually represent the victims in New Zealand. But they see the Christchurch killings as an attack on Islam and call themselves the “true believers” and defenders of the faith. For them, the attacks were carried out by Christians (“crusaders” or “Romans” in IS literature) and not just one terrorist. So the retaliation could be against Christians anywhere in the world. Second, the IS operated through a centre-periphery model. Its “Caliphate”, the proto-state that functioned from the seized territories in Syria and Iraq, was the centre, and the rest of the world, where recruits could be found and its “soldiers”carry out hits, was the periphery. When the centre came under attack, the IS shifted its focus to the periphery, carrying out terror attacks (both directed and inspired) in several parts of the world, from the Orlando nightclub to the Holey Artisan Bakery in Dhaka.
The IS’s centre has now been decimated, thanks mainly to the Kurdish militias in Syria, and the army and the Shia militias in Iraq. It lost all the territories from where Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi ruled. But only its organisational structure has been destroyed, not its ideological apparatus.
The IS world view of permanent conflict between its version of puritanical Islam and other cultures continues to inspire young jihadists. Thousands of militants have survived the fall of the ‘Caliphate’ and there’s an apparent communication system between the ramparts of the centre and the potential fighters in the periphery.
Their target is to spread terror anywhere in the world and trigger a cultural war between Islam and other faiths. This time it’s Sri Lanka, next time it could be any other country.