(CNN)It is one of the most lethal terrorist operations since September 11 — with a death toll of at least 207 people. That number will almost certainly rise, given the hundreds that were also injured in the eight attacks at churches and hotels in Sri Lanka on Sunday.
Sri Lankan Defense Minister Ruwan Wijewardene told reporters
the “terrorist incident” was carried out by those following “religious extremism.” While no group has claimed responsibility yet, the targets of the attacks — churches packed with the faithful on Easter Sunday and three five-star hotels catering to foreigners — have also figured in previous attacks.
In January of this year, ISIS claimed responsibility for an attack that killed at least 20
in a church in the Philippines. The attack also took place on a Sunday, when worshippers were gathered for mass. Then, last May, ISIS claimed responsibility for carrying out attacks at three churches in Indonesia, killing at least 12 people
and injuring dozens more. And, in 2017, on Palm Sunday, ISIS killed at least 49 people
gathered for Mass at two churches in Egypt.
But ISIS isn’t the only Islamist group to operate this way. An offshoot of al Qaeda in Iraq killed 58 people
at a church on a Sunday in the Iraqi capital Baghdad in 2010. Four years earlier, al Qaeda in Iraq attacked the Grand Hyatt, the Radisson SAS and Days Inn hotels in Amman, Jordan, killing 57
. (For reference, ISIS has its roots
in al Qaeda in Iraq.)
Then there’s Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, which carried out attacks
in 2008 on two luxury hotels in Mumbai — the Taj and the Oberoi — that were part of a larger operation in which a total of 164 people were killed.
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And Indonesia-based Jemaah Islamiyah carried out multiple attacks
on churches in 2000, killing 17. They also attacked the JW Marriott and the Ritz-Carlton hotels in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, in 2009, killing nine.
None of these groups has had much of a presence in Sri Lanka, though ISIS did try to recruit from the South Asian country. And, in 2016, a Sri Lankan official said that 32 Sri Lankans
had joined the group.
CNN obtained a memo
circulated by Sri Lankan police that warned on April 11 of a “suicidal attack by the leader of ‘Nations Thawahid Jaman.'” It’s not clear if this Islamist group carried out the attacks.
Of course, there are more questions than answers right now — particularly surrounding who is behind the Sunday attacks. All we know now for sure is that a group of extremists killed more than 200 people on Sunday in one of the most deadly attacks
the world has seen since 9/11.
NOTE: This op-ed has been updated to include new information.
Read more: https://www.cnn.com/2019/04/21/opinions/sri-lanka-attacks-mystery-bergen/index.html