The Irish Times view on Islamic State attacks: Solidarity trumps security response to terrorism

The huge international effort that has gone into defeating and containing IS must continue

The claim this week by Islamic State that their operatives were responsible for the suicide bombings which murdered over 250 people in Colombo, Sri Lanka is credible and threatening. The organisation’s territorial base, straddling Iraq and Syria, was finally defeated at the battle of Baghouz, as its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi admitted in a video; but it is now regrouping and relying on spectacular acts of terrorism like this to assert its survival and continuing capacity to act. There is good reason to fear it will repeat such atrocities.

The Sri Lanka bombings could have been prevented if its security forces had heeded detailed advance warnings, indicating that international surveillance of the organisation remains active. The attacks are unrelated to the long war against Tamil militants which ended in their defeat ten years ago. The Christian minority targeted proved vulnerable to this internationalised network. It appears that prosperous and well-educated members of another Sri Lankan Muslim minority, radicalised in Syria, mounted the bombings. It is a grim reminder that the mobilising power of this extreme ideology remains intact.

Previous factionalism within Isis between those advocating a territorial base and those favouring a more decentred and flexible international network has resurfaced after their Syrian defeat. Many thousands of its fighters survived the battles and have yet to return to their states of origin from prison camps. Many others are still based in these states and are available for acts such as these.

The huge international effort that has gone into defeating and containing them must continue and learn the lessons from such regrouping. The security approach is necessary but limited in its scope. More important by far is the impressive inter-communal and inter-faith solidarity against such extremism manifested once again in Sri Lanka and around the world. That too must continue to assert universal human values in the face of those who deny they apply in the name of such distorted and destructive visions.