Claiming responsibility for the Sri Lanka Easter Day bombings via its Amaq news portal, ISIS said the blasts were in retaliation to the recent firing at two mosques in New Zealand which led to the death of 50 Muslims. The gunman was a White Australian.
The message was aired on Amaq’s channel on Telegram app, reports News.com.
The video, which is suspected to be from Al Guraba Media, relayed the following message from ISIS: “This bloody day is our reward to you.”
The Sri Lankan government had first placed the blame on local religious group National Thowheed Jamaath. However, intelligence officials felt that the group, which could not completely deface a Buddhist statue, would not be able to carry out a mission on such a large scale. According to TOI, they felt that the NJT would have done this with external help.
Two days after a series of bomb blasts rocked Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday, images of three men with an Islamic State flag in the backdrop were released. They were said to be part of the bombers’ group who blew themselves up in churches and high-end hotels in the Island nation.
One of the reasons many believe that the men, Abu Ubaida, Abul Barra, Abul Mukhtar were part of the mission as the images were released by pro-IS television news channels. Another reason is that one of the men, identified as Abu Ubaida is also known as Zahran Hashim, is said to be the leader of the National Tawheed Jamaat (NTJ), a jihadi group in Sri Lanka, reports Times of India .
In the images, the three men are seen with weapons and a one-finger salute which is exclusive for the Islamic State members. Abu Ubaida is the one with his face uncovered while the others have covered their faces with black and white scarves.
“The given names are typical of how IS identifies its Inghemasis (fighters) after they pledge allegiance to Abu Bakr al Baghdadi. But Ubaida figuring in these pictures, which have the same background, does indicate that NTJ had direct affiliation with IS. The trio is also seen giving the one-finger salute, a sign popular with IS operatives,” an intelligence officer was quoted as saying by TOI.
While Abu Ubaida was identified as an operative for the NTJ, officials feel that a much bigger operation was behind the attacks. One of the officials said that previously, the NTJ, which is a national Islamic group, could not deface a Buddhist statue completely and so they would not been able to carry this mission on their own.
Speculations are rife that the attacks which targeted especially the churches in the country, could have been a retaliation for the attacks in the two mosques in New Zealand which killed 50 Muslim worshippers in March. The IS had vowed to avenge the deaths.
The blasts occurred on April 21, which also happened to be Easter. Churches targetted were St Sebastian’s in Negombo on the West coast of Sri Lanka, a church in Batticaloa and St Anthony’s church in Colombo. Five-star hotels in the country were also targetted. They were the Shangri-La, the Cinnamon Grand, and the Kingsbury.