Sri Lanka is still reeling from the horrific terrorist attacks this past Easter Sunday, killing over 300 people, and injuring hundreds more. The attacks, carried out by suicide bombers, struck at six Colombo locations in the first series of blasts, targeting three churches and three beachfront 5-star hotels. Subsequent bomb blasts took place while more explosives were recovered in what was clearly intended to be coordinated multi-city attack.
While the investigation into the reprehensible attack has already begun, there is much for authorities to determine. The death toll, 359 at the time of this writing, may increase, as rescue workers sift through debris and the wounded succumb; the exact nature of explosives is still being determined as is the nature of the individuals that used them; the number of followers and assets that the terrorist group responsible for the violence is still to be confirmed.
Not much is known about many things, but one fact is chillingly clear. Luxury hotels across the Indian sub-continent and other emerging regions in the world continue to present an extremely inviting target for radical individuals and groups looking for the most international attention.
So it should come as little surprise then that the Islamic State group on Tuesday said it was behind the attack, and released a photo and video of the men it said were responsible. "Those that carried out the attack that targeted members of the US-led coalition and Christians in Sri Lanka the day before yesterday are Islamic State group fighters," IS propaganda agency Amaq said in a statement.
It’s not too hard to see why 5-star hotels are so often the focus of large-scale terrorist attacks by religious fanatics and fundamentalist groups. Fronted by exclusive Western companies, catering to a well-heeled international clientele, who are committing a litany of perceived sins and generally denigrating their surroundings, these domiciles of decadence make ideal targets of righteous wrath.
But perhaps even more than them being prime examples of Western excess and its deleterious effect on sacrosanct traditions and conservative living, it’s the international media coverage that attacks on these resorts will surely generate that make resorts such viable targets.
Since September 11, and the subsequent war on terror, deadly terrorist attacks have become nigh commonplace, especially in troubled and or under-developed parts of the world. And the bombings, shootings, deaths and destruction of incidents, individually tragic as they are, are now relegated into a similar situational template, most occurrences just another one many others.
Out of the scores of terrorist attacks carried out on civilian targets, just within the Indian sub-continent, how many can we actually recall and discern? The Parliament attacks and 26/11 still loom large in our memories, of course, and will presumably continue to, given that they struck right at the center of the nation’s polity and culture respectively. But there were literally scores of others.
Other incidents one might recall, still sticking only to attacks on civilians within the sub-continent, are the Marriot Islamabad bombing, and the multiple attacks on Kabul’s Inter-Continental and Serena hotels. And Including Kabul within the sub-continent is anyway stretching it.
This is by no means a unique phenomenon. Across the middle-east as well as various parts of Africa and South Asia, over the last decade and a half, the lives of innocent civilians have been repeatedly shattered in the wake of hundreds of deadly attacks by religious fundamentalists, yet most of us would be hard-pressed to remember more than a handful of horrors individually. And many among that number will probably comprise the ones involving the luxury hotels and international resorts
Meanwhile, because of their relative rarity, the terrorist attacks that have struck the West are more easily recalled whether the one London, Madrid or Paris, not forgetting 9/11 itself of course. And the majority of those attacks were in public places like bus and train stations or at gatherings like races and concerts rather than exclusive, cloistered spaces catering to the rich and influential.
And so, by an obscene logic, internationally branded 5-star hotels, which house foreign guests, would make for the best targets to generate most publicity for and attention to one’s organization and cause. This especially would hold true in those regions of the world which are unfortunately inured to occasional or regular violence and fatal incidents. To borrow, rather appositely, from Stalin, in these parts of the world, the attack at a resort is a tragedy, the attacks in markets and streets is just a statistic.