Sri Lanka Bombings: Can We Really Trust the ‘ISIS’ News Agency?

21st Century Wire

April 23, 2019

This past Easter weekend saw a string of brutal terrorist bombings strike the country of Sri Lanka, targeting churches, luxury hotels and shopping malls, and killing over 300 people, injuring many others. Victims include Christian worshipers as well as a number of western citizens. While it is still unknown exactly who carried out these attacks and what their motive was, western mainstream media journalists and political leaders have already shifted into default mode, accepting that this was an “ISIS attack,” and that it may somehow also be a “revenge attack” in retaliation for last month’s mosque attack and mass shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand.

This speculation has fueled a new polarizing narrative currently cascading online under the banner of “Christianity is under attack” which is largely being driven by Right-wing pundits in the US, UK and Europe.

With so many commentators rushing to impose their own narrative onto this tragedy, it’s important to examine the facts closely, along with the wider geopolitical context in which this event has occurred.

MAHEM: Scene from a church in Colombo after bombing (Image Source: Tamil Guardian)

According to early statements made by Sri Lankan authorities, the attacks were likely to work of a local jihadist group known as National Thowheed Jamath (NTJ), but also admitted that “other nations had shared intelligence ahead of the blasts.”

Which ‘other nations’ they were referring to is still unclear.

“There had been several warnings from foreign intelligence agencies about the impending attacks,” Sri Lanka’s Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne said at press conference in Colombo. “Persons named in intelligence reports are among those arrested. Some named in the reports had died during attacks.”

“We don’t see how a small organization can do all of this,” Senaratne added. “We are now investigating international support for the group and their other links.”

There is also striking CCTV camera footage which purports to show the identity of at least one ‘known’ suicide bomber/terrorist as he enters one of the churches prior to detonation. In this instance, the alleged perpetrator is one Zahran Hashim, a radical Islamist cleric identified as one of the bombers. These clues seem to fit perfectly into the widely accepted terrorist narrative. At this point, most pundits are declaring this one as “case closed.”

Then, as if by magic, some two days after the attack, the online portal called Amaq, commonly known as the “ISIS news agency”, released a dubious statement “claiming responsibility” for these alleged ‘suicide bombings’ in Sri Lanka.

Naturally, most western mainstream media outlets took this anonymous posting as gospel and evidence of culpability, and have proceeded to build their updated story narratives around what could potentially be an ex post facto ‘claim of responsibility’ posted on the ISIS propaganda outlet, which effectively makes this an ‘open-and-shut case’ where the only real remaining questions will be “Which ISIS cells did the attack?” and “where were the bombs made?”, etc.

After the Amaq posting, award-winning New York Times journalist Rukmini Callimachi came out confidently with an entire narrative to fit the new ‘ISIS’ story line:

As with every other recent (from 2014 to present) high-profile terrorist event, once ‘ISIS’ is injected into the coverage, it then precludes any possibility of a state actor, or a state-sponsored actor being involved in the said terrorist attacks.

For those mainstream journalists and politicians who are general proponents of the ‘ISIS’ narrative, the Sri Lankan government’s initial claims that this was a local NJT Sri Lankan operation, albeit with some outside help, will most likely be rejected out of hand in favor of the ISIS line.

As noted in the analysis below by Eurasia Future, the timing of the attacks may be beyond mere coincidence – especially following India’s recent provocation against Pakistan which had resulted in Pakistan downing two Indian jets, capturing and later releasing one Indian pilot – a humiliating incident for the Modi government in New Delhi presently angling for geopolitical hegemony over the region.

Adam Garrie at Eurasia Future offers some context and lays out a broader scenario…

The entire world remains confronted with the horrors that unfolded yesterday throughout Sri Lanka. Whilst the country remains under curfew, the authorities have pinned the blame for the attack on an obscure group called National Thowheeth Jama’ath (NTJ). NTJ is reportedly an Islamist terror group that as noted by Sri Lankan authorities, has multiple links to foreign countries. The links to foreign countries appears to hold the key to determining who is really behind the attacks. Notably, it has been reported by journalists that the group trains in Chennai in Tamil Nadu – the same location where LTTE had previously trained. Others yet claim that NTJ is such a small and obscure group that even if it wanted to pull off such an attack, it did not have the capacity to do so.

As the Muslim population of Sri Lanka is less than 8% of the country’s entire population, it is difficult to conceive that any genuine local Islamist group would seek to stage such massive attacks when the possibility of any material gain would be limited by the fact that not only is Sri Lanka’s Muslim population at harmony with the Buddhist majority, but the population of Muslims is incredibly small. This contrasts sharply with the situation in Syria where a Sunni Muslim majority was weaponized against a leadership comprised of the minority Alawite faction.

Therefore, due to NTJ’s foreign links, it is highly likely that a foreign entity, most likely a foreign state or state intelligence agency was behind the attacks and that the men on the ground who have been captured are merely pawns in a much larger and even more dangerous game. When it comes to seeking to pin-pointing the country with a clear motive for orchestrating the attacks, India is the one that springs immediately to mind, not least because NTJ reportedly trains where the LTTE once did.

Garrie concluded that:

[W]hile it cannot be concluded with certainty that yesterday’s atrocity was a false flag attack, it can certainly not be ruled out. As such, anyone with a clear motive for conducting a false flag attack should be thoroughly investigated by the Sri Lankan authorities.

Continue this analysis at Eurasia Future

In addition to China and India, other economic and geopolitical stakeholders in Sri Lanka include the US, UK, Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Israel, to name only a few. These actors should all be considered when evaluating the wider international backdrop of these events.

Certainly, the next few days may reveal addition information which could give a clearer picture of the who mounted these attacks and why, but readers should also be on guard for dubious information injected into the picture which could be used to a sculpt a narrative before the all the forensic and empirical evidence has been gathered and collated.

More analysis to come from 21WIRE.

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