ISIS claims responsibility for Sri Lanka Easter bombings

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On April 23, 2019, the ISIS news agency ‘Amaq released a statement on Telegram[1] claiming that the April 21, 2019, coordinated attacks in Sri Lanka were carried out by ISIS fighters. The claim reads: “Security sources to ‘Amaq agency: Perpetrators of the attacks targeting the citizens of the coalition nations and Christians in Sri Lanka two days ago are fighters of the Islamic State.” ISIS supporters are currently celebrating the attack, and were also doing so prior to publication of the claim of responsibility.[2] 

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[1] Source: Telegram, NAshir News Agency, April 23, 2019.

[2] See MEMRI JTTM report, ISIS Supporters Celebrate Easter Sunday Bombings In Sri Lanka, April 21, 2019.

UPDATED: On April 23, 2019, ISIS released a follow-up statement claiming that nearly “1,000 Crusaders” were killed and wounded in the Sri Lanka attacks. The statement named seven inghimasi (i.e., deep-strike) attackers: Abu ‘Ubaida, Abu Al-Mukhtar, Abu Khalil, Abu Hamza, Abu Al-Bara’, Abu Muhammad, and Abu Abdallah. According to the statement, Abu Hamza targeted St. Anthony’s Shrine in Colombo, where he detonated his explosive vest amongst the “belligerent Christians”; Abu Khalil detonated his explosive vest in St. Sebastian’s Church in Negombo; Abu Muhammad detonated his explosive vest at the Zion Church in Batticaloa; while Abu ‘Ubaida, Abu Al-Bara’ and Abu Al-Mukhtar targeted “Crusader gatherings” in the Shangri-La, the Cinnamon Grand, and the Kingsbury hotels in Colombo, where they first detonated several IEDs followed by detonating their explosive vests. ISIS said that the seventh attacker, Abu Abdallah, was killed after clashing with and killing several policemen in Dematagoda. ISIS noted that “this blessed raid managed to kill nearly 350 Crusaders and wound 650 more, amongst whom were citizens of the Crusader coalition countries…”

ISIS also published a photo of the attackers that shows eight men, seven of whom are masked with one whose face is visible standing in the center. That man is believed to be Abu ‘Ubaida aka Abu ‘Ubaida Al-Saylani aka Zahran Hashim, a well-known preacher from the radical Islamic group in Sri Lanka known as the “National Tawheed Group.” On April 23, prior to ISIS’s official claim of responsibility, an ISIS supporter published three photos of three armed Sri Lankan men, who, he claimed, were three of the bombers who carried out the attacks. The photos identified the men as Abu ‘Ubaida Al-Saylani, Abu Al-Mukhtar Al-Saylani, and Abu Al-Bara’ Al-Saylani.[3]