Sri Lanka's president warned Easter attacks may be the start of new global ISIS strategy of targeting smaller countries rather than major Western nations

Sky NewsSri Lanka’s president Maithripala Sirisena speaking to Sky News on Wednesday.
  • Sri Lanka’s president says ISIS may be reorienting its strategy to attack small countries over large western nations after bombers killed 253 people in the Indian Ocean nation.
  • Maithripala Sirisena told Sky News a foreign power may have masterminded the Easter Sunday attack on three churches and hotels in Colombo and Negombo.
  • Sri Lanka’s prime minister and security services have been criticised for not taking action on police warnings a serious attack was imminent.
  • ISIS has claimed responsibility for attacks in Germany, France, and the UK, but security there has tightened, potentially driving ISIS to easier targets outside the West.
  • Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more stories.

Sri Lanka’s president has said the Easter Sunday attacks which claimed 253 lives may be the start of a new ISIS tactic to target smaller nations outside the West.

President Maithripala Sirisena told Sky News on Wednesday that ISIS could have begun a “new strategy” which involves targeting countries like Sri Lanka instead of major powers such as the US, Germany, France, or the UK.

“When IS was at height of their power they targeted the most powerful countries in the world, from the EU, to the UK, to Indonesia. They attacked a large number of countries, including Australia and other countries,” he said.

“At that time smaller countries were not really their target. Right now I’m left with the question as to why they targeted Sri Lanka. It is possible they have launched a new plan, a new strategy.”

President Sirisena’s warning that the Easter attacks may be the first of many aimed at smaller states could reflect the fact many western states have tightened security in the aftermath of terror attacks on their soil, making large-scale plots like the Easter Sunday attack harder to carry out.

Sri Lankan security officials had blamed the attack on local terror groups Jammiyathul Millathu Ibrahim and National Thowheeth Jamath, but ISIS have claimed responsibility.

Sirisena told Sky it was “quite possible” that a foreign actor such as ISIS is responsible for the attacks.

“Given the telephone calls they were making , and the fact that some of them have received training abroad, and the fact that IS leaders have made statements admitting the links to Sri Lanka. That is something we can assume,” he said.

In the wake of the attack Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and his security services were criticised for not acting on police and Indian intelligence warnings that a serious attack was imminent.

Read more:
ISIS brides from Canada, the US, and Europe are asking to return home years after fleeing for Syria. Here are their stories.

Sri Lanka remains on high alert, and has banned women from wearing face veils. Security forces have also warned the government they’re expecting another attack.

Despite this, Wickremesinghe claimed Sri Lanka has nearly eliminated the threat on Monday.

“The organisation is broken, people are on the run,” he told CBC News. “But some of them do have explosives and someone may out of desperation do an act.”

ISIS has claimed responsibility for several comparably small, but equally high profile, terror attacks in western countries in recent years.

They include the Strasbourg market attack in France in December 2018, the Manchester Arena bombing which killed 22 in the UK on May 2017, the New York City truck attack which killed 8 in October 2017, and the May 2018 shooting in Liege, Belgium.

ISIS has also claimed responsibility for deadly attacks in Pakistan, Syria, Indonesia, Libya, and Egypt, so time will tell if Sirisena’s prediction will be realised.

Read more:
ISIS’ ‘caliphate’ is no more – 14 photos of its last days under a US-backed onslaught

Thought dead until an ISIS video from April 2019 showed him to be alive on Monday, ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi said Sri Lanka was attacked as revenge for the fall of the ISIS stronghold of Baghuz, Syria.

Ending the Sky News interview, Sirisena urged ISIS: “Leave my country alone.”

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.