The Current

Sri Lanka bombings likely orchestrated by outside force, expert says

We hear updates and reaction on the attacks in Sri Lanka, including what the massacre could mean for an already fractured community.

'Never been any Islamic extremist violence in Sri Lanka ever before': Alan Keenan

The death toll from bomb blasts that ripped through churches and luxury hotels in Sri Lanka has risen to 290. (ISHARA S. KODIKARA/AFP/Getty Images)
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Sunday's attacks in Sri Lanka are likely driven by a force outside of the country, according to an expert with the International Crisis Group.

"It's more likely ... driven by and working with and sustained by an agenda from outside, that doesn't necessarily have much to do with Sri Lanka," said Alan Keenan, Sri Lanka senior analyst with the group.

He told The Current's guest host Duncan McCue that while some Sri Lankan Muslims seem to have been involved in Sunday's bombings, "there's been no violence directed at other communities by Muslims until yesterday."

A series of explosions at churches and luxury hotels began across the country just before 9 a.m. local time on Easter Sunday, killing 290 people and wounding about 500. Police said 24 people have been arrested so far, all of whom are Sri Lankan.

A broken statue of the Virgin Mary after an explosion at St. Anthony's Shrine church, in Colombo, Sri Lanka on Sunday. (Dinuka Liyanawatte/Reuters)

Sri Lankan cabinet minister Rajitha Senaratne said the attacks were carried out by a local militant group called National Thowfeek Jamaath — with the help of an international network.

"We do not believe these attacks were carried out by a group of people who were confined to this country," Senaratne said. "There was an international network without which these attacks could not have succeeded."

The International Crisis Group's Alan Keenan explains the mix of ethnicities and religions in Sri Lanka in a discussion about who, if anyone, might be interested in targeting Christians with deadly attacks. 2:04

Keenan described the attacks as "unprecedented."

"There has never been any Islamic extremist violence in Sri Lanka ever before, and this group — who the government is pointing to as the culprits — is unheard of," he said.

"A lot of people are scratching their heads, even as they're in mourning, and trying to sort out what's going on."

To discuss the attacks and what they mean for the country's stability, McCue spoke to:

  • Ashwin Hemmathagama, senior journalist and correspondent in Sri Lanka.
  • Jude Aloysius, Sri-Lankan Canadian and president of the Tamil Catholic community in Toronto.
  • Alan Keenan, Sri Lanka senior analyst with the International Crisis Group.

Click 'listen' near the top of this page to hear the full conversation.


Written with files from CBC News. Produced by Samira Mohyeddin and Alison Masemann.

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