There are certain hallmarks of radical Islamic terrorists. Yesterday’s attacks in Sri Lanka had most of them: the use of suicide bombers, crowded targets centered on people of Judeo-Christian faiths, coordinated timing of multiple attacks, and symbolism in the day selected for the attack. But one conspicuous hallmark was and is missing.
Nobody has claimed responsibility.
Following every major terrorist attack, the group behind the attack has sent out word to the press or through social media that they were the ones responsible. There is often a flurry among the press and law enforcement to somehow verify the claims are real, but almost invariably only one major Islamic group claims responsibility at a time.
In Sri Lanka, nobody has come forward or posted on social media that they were the culprits behind what can be assumed was a successful act of heinous terrorism committed against Christians. There may be a simple explanation. Sri Lanka is very tight-lipped in their government and legal dealings. Perhaps they received a claim of responsibility and haven’t released it. They’ve claimed they know Nations Thawahid Jaman (or possibly spelled National Thawheed Jama’ut) is responsible, but as Greg Norman at Fox News noted, they’ve offered no evidence for the claim. All we know at this point is an unknown foreign entity tipped off the Sri Lankan government a week and a half before the attacks and that Nations Thawahid Jaman was named.
Little is known about the group that emerged in 2009. To date, their only known activities have been to vandalize Buddhist temples a decade ago and participation in a minor clash in Kattankudy that hospitalized three and resulted in ten arrests. We know that 24 people have been arrested so far and the inference by Sri Lankan officials is the arrests included members of the group.
But this all brings us back to the initial question: Why have they not claimed responsibility? With around 300 dead in an attack that has shaken the world, one would assume the group would have put out a message of hatred intended to give a reason for the attack or to scare people into watching for future attacks. Terrorism isn’t committed without an agenda, but the agenda of the perpetrators of this attack remains elusive. That’s definitely not a hallmark of radical Islamic terrorism.
I’m neither suggesting that the attack wasn’t committed by jihadists nor that the Sri Lankan government is focused on the wrong group. But for an attack to be so sophisticated that many terrorism experts are claiming they had to have outside help, it’s conspicuous that nobody is taking credit. I don’t know how terrorists think or what drives their murderous ways, but history tells us when one of their attacks is this successful, it’s rarely followed by silence
Perhaps we’ll know more in the coming days. Perhaps the Sri Lankan government already knows more and isn’t sharing until they’re ready. Perhaps this is something different. At this point, all we can do is speculate.