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Colombo bombings: Why it may not be a bad idea to look at Maldives as well

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New Delhi, Apr 24: A day after Sri Lanka said that they do not believe that only locals were involved, the Islamic State claimed responsibility for the deadly Colombo suicide bombings.

Dead bodies of victims lie inside St. Sebastians Church damaged in blast in Negombo, north of Colombo, Sri Lanka

This came in the wake of the investigators pointing a finger at a radical group known as the National Towheed Jamat (NTJ). While the attacks and motive do bear the signature of the Islamic State, the question is whether the group was capable of carrying out such a major strike on its own. This considering the group has lost considerable ground in its once before strongholds of Syria and Iraq.

'We are scared about going out': Sri Lanka muslims after blasts

Although the chief of the ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi had said that the strikes would now move to the mainland, the fact is that the morale of the entire outfit is down.

On the other hand if one were to analyse the NTJ, it does not have the capability of carrying out an attack of such a magnitude.

The NTJ has been radical in nature and was involved in the vandalising of Buddhist statues. Moreover the group is disorganised and unless it had the support of a foreign group, it could have carried out the attack.

Sri Lanka has had its brush with the Islamic State when 32 elite Muslims left the country to join the outfit. One of them was reported dead as well.

This brings us to the question, whether there was another hand behind the attack as well. In this context one would have to look towards Maldives, which is close to Sri Lanka. Scores of Muslim youth have been recruited into the ISIS from Maldives and what makes matters more interesting is that the chief of the NTJ was a frequent traveller to the nation.

Over the years Maldives has become one of the biggest launchpad for Jihadis. In addition to this it has also become a major destination to park slush funds to be used to terror related activities.

Further there are 1,000s of unmanned islands where policing is a nightmare. This has also made it a favourite place for Jihadis to plan and launch their operations.

Not just the ISIS, but the Al-Qaeda too had made Maldives its hub. So, could the Al-Qaeda be behind the Colombo bombings? Unlikely as if one looks at the pattern of the group of late, it has refrained from mass murders.

Sri Lanka blasts: Suicide bomber pats a little girl before blowing himself up

However in 2009, the al-Qaeda had recruited in large numbers Muslim youth from Maldives. They were being picked up for the battle in Afghanistan back in 2009. The same year at least 150 youth had gone missing.

In 2009, the US too had raised concerns of Maldives turning into a terror launchpad and hub.

Now coming back to the Colombo bombings, it would not be entirely wrong to look at the role played by some elements in that country. The frequent visits by the NTJ chief Mohammad Zahran must be looked into closely. Indian officials say that the possibility of the Jihadis who have travelled back from Syria being used in the attack too cannot be ruled out.

The attack could have been coordinated through the various online channels used by the Islamic State with the help of the NTJ. Further there is no scarcity of extremist elements in the country and with the help of those high trained suicide bombers, the attack could have been carried out, the official also feels.

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