The assessment, communicated by various police sources, is provisional and could still evolve, as there are dozens of injured people in critical condition in all the attacked areas. No group claimed responsibility for these attacks, but the authorities announced the arrest of a total of thirteen men belonging to the same radical group.
Police announced on Monday that an "improvised explosive device" was found late Sunday on a road leading to the main terminal at Colombo airport and that it was successfully defused. Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena has ordered the deployment of the army to sensitive areas of the capital and the establishment of a special police and army unit to investigate the attacks.
The Islamic State organization claimed responsibility for the Easter Sunday attacks while Sri Lanka buried its dead on Tuesday April 23. This is the deadliest attack that has happened outside of the terrorist’s home territory of Syria. One month after the fall of the Syrian village of Baghouz, the group is thus telling the world of its resiliency.
On its regular channel, the Amaq agency, broadcast a video showing the oath of allegiance of a group of men, presented as the suicide bombers who struck six churches and luxury hotels on Sunday. To prove responsibility, the Islamic state released photographs on social media of a leader and seven companions with masked faces. They also provided operational details more than 48 hours after the incident, a relatively long time. The Sri Lankan authorities, overwhelmed by the scale of the attack, have not confirmed the truth of this information.
The leader of Sunday's attacks, Mohammed Zahran, also known as Zahran Hashmi, became famous for inflammatory speeches broadcast on social networks three years ago. He led the Islamist National Tawheed Jamaat (NTJ) group, hardly known on the island, which had never been involved in the preparation of terrorist acts. This group was mentioned in the April 21 alert to the Sri Lankan police, and ignored by the authorities, that it was planning suicide attacks against churches and the Indian Embassy in Colombo.
Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said on Tuesday that other Islamist militants were at large and that the police were still looking for hidden explosives. The country was again under curfew during the night from Tuesday to Wednesday. In the capital Colombo, some mosques were closed for fear of reprisals and displayed banners to express their condolences and condemnation of terrorism.
Weakened by ethnic and religious fault lines, the island of 21 million inhabitants finds itself once again threatened by civil war: the threat of suicide attacks as well as police and military presence as in the civil war and the imposition of a state of emergency criticized for having restricted freedoms in the country.