International Jihadism’s Connections to Sri Lanka

This post has since been updated with the latest information at the bottom.

In light of yesterday’s horrific attacks in Sri Lanka, similar to my recent post on the DRC, I thought I’d add some information to better help understand connective tissues to what occurred. While there is not much history of Sri Lankan involvement in global jihadism, there have been some small connections. To stay up to date on the latest, I would first recommend following Amarnath Amarasingam on Twitter, not only for his incisive thread on this, but also because he is best placed speak on the topic as a researcher and with a personal connection.

It is quite possible that if this does end up become something Islamic State-related we might be seeing a new tactic to garner more media attention: attacking locales with foreign fighter networks, yet do not have robust security and counterterrorism measures. Making the chance of spectacular attacks more possible since it is easier to pull off than countries that have histories of dealing with terrorism of this nature. There are even reports that the police chief was warned about the attacks ahead of time yet not much was done to prevent it due to internal political squabbles. Based on my above analysis regarding the post-territorial control IS, I will start a new ‘backgrounder’ series on Jihadology, similar to the Attack and Plot Dossier, but this will be for when something occurs in a locale that does not have much history of jihadi activity and everyone is attempting to gain a better grasp on the situation.

If anyone wants to add anything to the following dossier let me know and I will post it so there is a fuller picture. From oldest to most recent.

August 21, 2014:

The Rise of Ideological Jihadists – OPEN Magazine

November 21, 2014:

The Maldives-Syria Connection: Jihad in Paradise? – The Jamestown Foundation

May 15, 2015:

Wanted: Western Professionals To Join The Islamic State (ISIS)

July 19, 2015:

Abu Shuraih Seylani (Sharfaz Nilam Muhsin), from Sri Lanka, died from airstrike on July 12th. #LKA #Tamil #IS #Syria

July 21, 2015:

Sri Lanka probes first Lankan ISIS man after death

August 30, 2015:

Police probe case of couple who left for “war” with two kids – HaveeruOnline

December 2, 2015:

Islamic State’s Sri Lankan Outreach – The Jamestown Foundation

January 4, 2016:

36 Sri Lankans gone to Syria; some to join ISIS: Def. Secy. – Dailymirror

April 1, 2016:

Facebook and Twitter facilitated ISIS recruits moving to Syria: leaked data – Zaman Alwsl

May 13, 2016:

Malaysia deports three foreign suspected militants – Reuters

July 25, 2016:

Looking for God’s own country – The Indian Express

August 27, 2016:

Al Qaeda goes local, uses Tamil and Malayalam for recruitment in South India

November 18, 2016

Sri Lanka says 32 ‘elite’ Muslims have joined IS in Syria – Reuters

November 29, 2016:

How Isis recruiters found fertile ground in Kerala, India’s tourist gem – The Guardian

March 26, 2017:

Drone Strike Kills Planner of 2008 Islamabad Hotel Bombing, U.S

June 16, 2017:

Tech Savvy ISIS Chief Recruiter In India Named Global Terrorist By US

November 17, 2017:

AQIS goes vernacular with Tamil, Hindi, Bengali texts online – The Indian Express

April 21, 2018:

Where Countries Are Tinderboxes and Facebook Is a Match – The New York Times

September 26, 2018:

Life Sentence for Terrorism – Daily News

January 19, 2019:

Sri Lanka seize explosives from local Islamist radicals – Dhaka Tribune

April 21, 2019:

Sri Lanka Blasts: Here’s What We Know So Far About the Decade’s Worst Terror Attack

Twitter thread on one of the potential bombers and a pro-IS support from Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka attacks: More than 200 killed as churches and hotels targeted – BBC News

Sri Lankans see hand of global jihadis in Easter Sunday atrocity – Financial Times

April 22, 2019:

7 suicide bombers from local terrorist group behind Sri Lanka blasts, investigator says – Daily Sabah

Sri Lanka bombings carried out by Islamist group National Thowheed Jama’ath, minister says – The Independent

Sri Lanka attacks: ‘International network’ linked to bombings – BBC News

Sri Lanka Blames Radical Islamist Group for Easter Bombings – The New York Times

Sri Lanka’s bloody Easter puts spotlight on a new terror threat – The Washington Post

A Scholar of Extremism on How Religious Conflict Shapes Sri Lanka – The New Yorker

Sri Lanka Muslims Had Warned Officials About Group Behind Attack – Bloomberg

Sri Lankan Group Suspected of Easter Attacks Has Ties to Local Charity – Kharon

‘These Attacks Could Target Catholic Churches’: The Warning That Sri Lankan Officials Failed to Heed – The New York Times

April 23, 2019:

U.S., India Warned Sri Lanka Weeks Before Easter Terror Attacks – WSJ

Sri Lankan Official Says Bombings Are Retaliation For New Zealand Massacre – NPR

ISIS suspect gave advance warning of Sri Lanka bombings, source says – CNN

Sri Lanka Bombings: A Lesson in Radicalization for Asian Neighbors

Sri Lanka was warned of threat hours before suicide attacks – sources – Reuters

Asia Times – ‘Mother of Satan’ explosive used in Sri Lanka bombings

Asia Times – ‘IS-KP’ suspected of Sri Lanka involvement

April 24, 2019:

Sri Lanka blasts: Two Colombo suicide bombers identified as millionaire businessman’s sons, say intel sources – Firstpost

Sri Lanka suicide bomber studied in Australia, minister says – The Guardian

Sri Lanka deputy defense minister one of nine bombers was a woman – Reuters

Sri Lanka attack planned for ‘months’ – The Independent

Sri Lanka blasts: Fatima Ibrahim identified as one of the suicide bombers; wife of SL millionaire blew self up with unborn child – Firstpost

Sri Lanka told of extremist network months before blasts – sources – The Guardian

Islamic State video throws spotlight on suspected ringleader of Sri Lanka bombings – Reuters

Sri Lanka Calls Bombers ‘Well Educated’ and Warns of Ongoing Threat – The New York Times

Zahran Hashim: radical Islamist linked to Sri Lanka blasts

April 25, 2019:

The Sri Lanka Attacks and Islamic State Logic: A Look at al-Naba’ – Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi

Sri Lanka bombing suspects may still be on the run, police warn – CNN

Two Islamic State men linked to Sri Lanka Easter blasts – The Hindu

Sri Lankan Accused of Leading Attacks Preached Slaughter. Many Dismissed Him. – The New York Times

How a legal blind spot could have kept Sri Lanka from arresting returning ISIS members – The Washington Post

April 26, 2019:

Sri Lanka Bombings Put Focus on Islamist Preacher Long on the Radar – WSJ

Sri Lanka bombings ringleader died in hotel attack, president says – BBC News

Sri Lanka bombing: Terrorist Abdul Lathief Jameel Mohamed ‘radicalised in Australia’

Sri Lanka attacks: Australian police investigated bomber five years ago – The Times

‘Black sheep’ – The mastermind of Sri Lanka’s Easter Sunday bombs – Reuters

Sri Lanka raids prompt authorities to impose extended curfew – CNN

Sri Lanka gun battle with militants kills 15, U.S. pulls citizens out – Reuters

Security Officials Were ‘Stunned’ by the Sophistication of the Sri Lanka Attack

Kattankudy, the remote Sri Lankan enclave that produced the Easter bombing mastermind – The Washington Post

April 27, 2019:

The Western-educated bomber who botched Sri Lanka hotel attack – Reuters

The British connection: Jihadi John was mentor to Easter bombings ringleader Abdul Lathief Jameel Mohamed in Raqqa – The Times

Indian police uncovered an attack plot, but Sri Lanka didn’t act

Islamic State claims attack on east coast city of Sri Lanka – Reuters