Feature Article

People of all walks of life victims in ‘chosen island’ of geopolitics, religious extremism

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 23 April 2019, 23:12 GMT]
The families and the relatives of the victims of the serial terror attacks on Easter Sunday mourned their dead with mass burials and an island-wide day of mourning with three minutes of silence on Tuesday. At least 45 of those killed were children, according to the figures gathered by the United Nations. As the death toll from the bombings rose to 321, the Syria-based Islamic State group, which had lost all its territorial control in Syria and Iraq, claimed that it stood behind the serial terror attacks, publishing photos and a video of the attackers. In the meantime, reports also said that the US Indo-Pacific Command had wrapped up a joint naval training, four days earlier than it was scheduled to conclude in Hambantota.

The victims in the church blasts were Tamils and Sinhalese while most foreigners were killed in blasts that targeted hotels.

Ten Indian, eight British residents, four US citizens including a child, three Dutch citizens, three Danish children and citizens of Turkey, Australia, France, Japan and Portugal were among the killed.

Easter killings
A family in Colombo mourning three of its members killed in the Easter Sunday bombings [Photo courtesy: AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena]


Ruwan Wijewardene, the SL state minister of defence, was suggesting that the attacks might have been in retaliation for the March 15 mosque shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand. However, the office of New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was quick to point out that the claim was baseless. “New Zealand has not yet seen any intelligence upon which such an assessment might be based,” the statement observed.

The attacks have exposed the pathetic state of the SL State's intelligence apparatus and the political rift prevailing in the South.

Many Islamic leaders in the island were quick to blame Zahran Hashim, even before the intelligence agencies of the SL State managed to point at him as the possible local agent behind the Easter Sunday terror.

The early warnings from the Muslim leaders about the possible suspect were finally confirmed as the ISIS released photos and video, which prominently feature Zahran Hashim.

ISIS video screenshot
The ISIS has claimed responsibility almost 48 hours after the serial terror attack on Tuesday issuing statements, photos and video of seven attackers swearing allegiance to its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi through Amaq, a news outlet affiliated with the terror group.


Moulavi Hashim, as the terror agent was known, was a social media preacher. He hails from Kaaththaan-kudi in Batticaloa. It is not known whether he was part of the suicide bombers.

Hashim was leading an Islamist group known as "National Thowheeth Jama'ath" and has preached hate-filled sermons.

US Navy at Hambantota
U.S. Navy Sonar Technician 2nd Class Jacob Crowe returns honors from the guided-missile destroyer USS Spruance to the Sri Lanka Navy warship SLNS Samudura while manning the rails as the ship pulls into Hambantota port in Sri Lanka on Thursday. Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Ryan D. McLearnon/U.S. Navy


The week-long joint exercise, Cooperation Afloat and Readiness Training (CARAT), between the US Navy and the SL Navy, which was taking place along the Chinese-owned port of Hambantota, was concluded four days earlier than scheduled due to the terror attacks in the island.

“All U.S. personnel involved in CARAT are accounted for and redeployment is in progress,” said an update on the US Navy website.

U.S. Marine Corps Fleet Antiterrorism Security Team (FAST) Pacific was also part of the CARAT exercise.

USS Spruance (DDG 111), an Arleigh-Burke class guided-missile destroyer, was the first U.S. warship to pull into Hambantota on 19 April.

Previously, the US Indo-Pacific Command only made a Pacific Partnership 2017 mission stop in Hambantota in March 2017. It was multilateral humanitarian assistance and disaster relief preparedness mission.

The latest military training came after US Senior Defence Officer/Defence Attaché in Colombo, Lt. Colonel Douglas Hess visited the port on 27 February along with US Ambassador Alaina B. Teplitz and a public affairs officer.

There were also reports of a similar visit by an Indian delegation.

The US and Indian delegations had obtained assurances that the Chinese-owned port was led by retired Sri Lankan admiral Jayantha de Silva and not by China's People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN).

The US move also comes after SL Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe tricked the family-owned business of Tamil Nadu's DMK politician Samikannu Jagathratchagan to invest 70% of USD 3.85 billion to build an oil refinery and cement factory in Mirijjawila near the Chinese-owned port. The investment, made along with Oman's Oil Co (30%), is the most significant foreign direct investment in the island, reports said. Eezham Tamils severely criticised the move.

Mahinda Rajapaksa, the former SL President, had built the port with the loans obtained from China.

Mr Wickramasinghe had leased out the Chinese-built seaport at Hambantota to China for 99 years in 2017.

The 99-year port-lease has become the contemporary example of borrower states ceding control over strategic territories to global financial powers in return for debt relief.


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