Security on high alert following the Easter Sunday church bombings.
Security on high alert following the Easter Sunday church bombings.

Although the military interventions by Russia and USA in Syria and Iraq, have weakened and dismantled the power bases of ISIS in Middle East to a larger extent, the threat of terrorism will remain high and could worsen in the coming decades. World-wide Intelligence reports have confirmed that more and more various extremist groups are now very active in a number of countries, although they have lost vital and strong bases in Syria and Iraq.

Communications technology allows and encourage extremists to inspire and direct attacks often remotely, making use of encrypted means, underlining the complexity and unpredictability of the situations we face in our day-to-day routine activities. New technologies will give the opportunity for these trained terrorists to make advanced biological and chemical warfare agents.

For these sudden and unpredictable attacks the terrorists will prefer to choose and exploit fragile and violence-prone states even in Southeast Asia. Very cunningly they will make use of these “spots” for safe havens and also to build up and enhance their skills for future planned attacks.

Recent terrorists’ violence, in Australia, New Zealand, Southern Philippines, India and in our own motherland highlight the dynamic nature of the growing extremism challenge. Al Qa’ida also still retains the organisational strength to manipulate, coordinate and conduct attacks against vested interests in selected geographical areas.

The ability to launch several attacks all at once suggests a degree of sophistication, planning, funding, and reach. While our law enforcing authorities are still piecing together what happened on the ground level, the blasts in Sri Lanka bear at least some resemblance to the November 2008 attack in Mumbai, which simultaneously targeted two luxury hotels, a busy railway terminal, and a Jewish outreach centre.

According to Indian intelligence surveys the Mumbai attacks were designed not only to cause the highest number of casualties but also to target groups-such as Western tourists –that would lead to the greatest amount of international media coverage. One of the 2008 attackers was apprehended, and the others were successfully identified, leading the authorities in India to declare that the Pakistani based LASHKAR-E-TAIBA MILITANT GROUP is responsible for this attack. However, in analyzing the situations in Mumbai and Sunday attacks in Sri Lanka there are several differences between the two attacks. The Sunday attacks in Sri Lanka spread out across the country, instead of concentrated in a single city, and that unlike in Mumbai, no hostages were taken.

Terrorism threat in South-East Asia

Our own investigations have now revealed that the terrorism threat in South-East Asia is increasing because of close links between local extremists and terrorist groups such as ISIL.

When you study and look at the records of the terrorists, it is a well established fact that the ISIS was started as an Al Qaeda splinter group.

The main aim of the ISIS is not to work for the welfare of the Muslims in the economic and social spheres, but to establish an Islamic State known and popularized as caliphate across Iraq, Syria and beyond. This organised group is implementing Sharia Law, rooted in 18th century Islam, to establish a society that mirrors the regions ancient past.

ISIS is known for killing dozens and dozens of innocent people at a time and carrying our barbaric type public executions, crucifixions and other type of inhuman acts.

Up to now, this group has organised nearly 100 attacks in 23 countries and have killed thousands of people. It has used and manipulated modern tools like social media to promote reactionary politics and religious fundamentalism. ISIS fighters have destroyed holy sites and valuable antiquities.

In the year 2014, ISIS controlled more than 34,000 square miles in Syria and Iraq, from Mediterranean coast to south of Baghdad, the Capital of Iraq. However, their advancement was turned back by the Russian forces stationed in Syria and very bold leadership given by the Russian President Putin, even ignoring Trump’s warnings.

In 2015, ISIS was believed to be holding 4,000 people as slaves, according to confidential reports of the United Nations Organization. Most of the enslaved are women and children of the Yazidi community but some are from other ethnic and religious minority groups.

Their main sources of revenue were generated through tapping oil productions, smuggling, taxes, ransoms from kidnappings, selling stolen artifacts and controlling crops. It is said and believed that some oil-rich countries are also funding insurgencies all over the world.

Our friendly neighbour India, has submitted a comprehensive five-point formula to the world forum, United Nations Organization, sometime back to promote counter terror cooperation among member states.

Addressing a UN High Level conference on Heads of Counter Terrorism in New York Rina Mitra (Special Secretary-Internal Security) disclosed the five-point formula. A) Exchange of timely and actionable intelligence (B) Prevention of misuse of modern communication through collaboration of the private sector (C) Building capacities for improved border controls (D) Sharing of information related to movement of passengers and (E) Designation of counter terror focal points to fight global terror.

In her eminent address, Mitra without naming any country and without blaming or accusing any organisation, noted that India’s counter terror efforts continue to be thwarted due to lack of international cooperation in respect of exchange of information and evidence of extradition of the accused persons, who are hiding out of India’s territory.

Mitra, emphasized that ‘No country can be considered safe from terrorist attacks’.

Intelligence failures

Two distinguished scholars at Indiana University Feisal al-Istrabadi and Sumit Ganguly have written a well researched book in the name and style, The Future of ISIS. It examines how ISIS will affect not only the Middle East but the whole global order. Specific chapters deal with such questions as whether and how ISIS benefited from intelligence failures and what can be done to correct any such failures and also how to confront the alarming broad appeal of Islamic State Ideology and the role of local and regional actors in confronting ISIS; and determining US interests in preventing ISIS from gaining influence and controlling territory.

Today, terrorist entities have links and operate across borders building networks, raising funds in various ways on an international scale, propagating their ideologies of hate, recruiting from foreign lands, sourcing arms and weapons from distant providers and smugglers, and exploiting communication knowledge that dissolve distances.

We, as Sri Lankans have gone through so many trials and tribulations in the past and if we look at the brighter side of this national catastrophe, the opportunity is still there for us to emerge as a united Sri Lanka. The ordinary Muslim community has come forward to pass on vital information to the security establishment. This is a good sign. If we are to realize an undivided Sri Lanka, the four main faiths of this nation should have a collected voice and the leadership must enable a sound framework to cement this unity. We got rid one menace successfully ten years back and we should not create loopholes for another menace to get strengthened. It should be wiped out from grass-root level through the cooperation of Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims, Malays, Burghers and all others.

We should not allow any breeding grounds of this nature in future!



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