Sri Lanka doubles down on claim attacks were retaliation for Christchurch massacre

Sri Lanka's Defence Minister continues to push the attack there was "retaliation" for Christchurch.

Reports out of Sri Lanka say Ruwan Wijewardene was quizzed about his "retaliation" comments, and explained that while the terror cell was planning an attack for a while, Christchurch provided the final motivation.

 It means Sri Lanka is "doubling down" on its claims its attack was a revenge hit for Christchurch.

The Islamic State has claimed responsibility.

 Although New Zealand is saying there's "no intelligence" yet, that it was.

 Sri Lankan Intelligence has named the mastermind of the attack as Zaharan Hashim, an Islamic State supporter and the leader of a local extremist group.

A hate preacher who goes by various names, Hashim is the leader of a local extremist group called "NTJ".

Investigators are checking whether he blew himself up in the Easter attack that killed 359 people.

A leaked memo from Sri Lanka's police, warning of an attack ten days before, had noted how a supporter of Zaharan Hashim has been "regularly updating accounts with hate speech against non-Muslims since the March 15, 2019, attacks on Muslim mosques by a Christian individual in New Zealand." 

Although it is important to note the accused Christchurch gunman does not describe himself as a Christian.

The retaliation motive has also been left open by Sri Lanka's Prime Minister.

"It's possible it could have been because of the Christchurch attacks, we cannot say yet,"

 But Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says there is no direct evidence to support the retaliation theory yet.

"We haven't received anything officially, nor have we received any intelligence reports corroborating that," she said.  

The world-leading authority on Islamic State terrorism, Rita Katz, said the attack was likely planned a long time ago.

"While such a claim may frame the op as revenge for New Zealand, this was likely planned long before."

She argues the complexity and scale of the Sri Lanka attack, with six virtually simultaneous attacks would likely have seen Islamic State assisting the NTJ group in the planning.

 So Katz said she expected the attack had been given "a post-New Zealand attack retaliation branding."

 And social media is helping spread that branding. Propaganda has been posted online, boasting about how many more were killed in the churches than at the mosque, with an incorrect death toll.

 Christchurch and Sri Lanka - being talked about as retaliation no matter what.



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