At least two Sri Lankans reportedly join the ISIS every month amidst recent security measures to control IS (aka ISIS) presence in Sri Lanka, experts on terrorism have said.
The Government last week announced that 36 Sri Lankans had joined the IS movement so far, following which the security agencies were on full alert.
Head of the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research (ICPVTR) at the Nanyang University, Singapore, Prof. Rohan Gunaratna said the number of Sri Lankans in the IS would exceed 50 by the end of the year.
“The real threat is not travel, but the spread of the radical and violent ideology of IS both in the virtual and physical space in Sri Lanka,” he said.
However, he added that even though the IS presented a growing threat to Sri Lanka, South Asia and the world, Sri Lanka has managed the threat exceptionally well, compared to most South Asian governments.
“Sri Lankan government is working closely with the Muslim organizations to engage the Sri Lankan Muslim youth,” he added.
The Defence Ministry on January 6 issued a communiqué stating that the security forces and all intelligence wings were on full alert on possible links to IS or its emergence in the country.
Prof. Gunaratna added Sri Lankan, Indian and Bangladeshi Muslims are resilient to IS ideology. He pointed out that despite the growing threat of IS, less than 1 percent of the Muslims backed the movement.
“Over 100 nationals have travelled from these three countries to join IS in Syria. Even those who went, within a year, at least 50 percent of them wanted to return home,” he added.
“In the case of the Maldives, the IS threat has spread due to the political instability and the archipelagic nature. The Maldives should build a rehabilitation program to deradicalize Muslims radicalized by IS and a community engagement program to immunize their society from IS messaging,” he said.
Prof. Gunaratna added that the Sri Lankan government must continue to work closely with all Muslim organizations. “The government should develop programs and initiatives to engage the Muslim youth and ensure that they are not deceived by the IS ideology,” he said.