What Sri Lanka's Easter Bombings Say About ISIS

Security and counterterrorism expert Stuart Gottlieb at Columbia's School of International Public Affairs discusses the latest terrorist attacks.

Stuart Gottlieb
April 24, 2019

"The Easter Sunday attacks in Sri Lanka represent a dangerous new direction for international terrorism.

First of all, they brought to South Asia the most lethal and chaos-inducing type of attacks that al-Qaeda and its offshoots and affiliates have become famous for: multiple, near simultaneous suicide bombings against soft targets—filled with the most innocent of civilians—with the clear intention of sowing divisiveness among various ethnic and religious groups.

Second, even though ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attacks, and reportedly said they were in retaliation for last month's white nationalist shootings in the New Zealand mosques, the sophistication of Sunday's bombings suggest that ISIS had already made a direct connection with a small but obviously increasingly radical group of Islamists in Sri Lanka.

This is not to discount the New Zealand motivation but rather to point out that even though ISIS has lost its territorial caliphate in the Mideast, it is successfully branching out with new direct footholds in the furthest reaches of the world. The 'long war' against  globalized terror just got a little longer."


Stuart Gottlieb is an adjunct professor of international affairs and public policy at SIPA, where he teaches courses on American foreign policy, counterterrorism, and international security. He also serves as faculty director for the certificate degree program in international relations, and is a member of the Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies. A week before the Sri Lanka bombings, Gottlieb wrote his foreboding opinion The Terror to Come published in The Hill. This column is editorially independent of Columbia News.