“This is by all accounts an intelligence failure. Security services are responsible for penetrating local extremist groups, understanding their nexus to other overseas transnational groups and then collecting intelligence so they can pre-empt attacks and that didn't happen in this case and as a result we have almost 300 dead and 500 wounded,” said Hoffman, a Fox News contributor, on “America’s Newsroom” on Monday.
A pair holding dual U.S. and British nationalities was among the 11 foreigners killed after a series of explosions struck three churches and three luxury hotels in and just outside Sri Lanka’s capital Easter Sunday, leaving at least 290 people dead and more than 500 others injured, officials said.
The U.S. State Department confirmed in a statement that “several U.S. citizens were among those killed” in the explosions, although no more information was immediately available.
“One of the things I think we'll be looking at is the number of Sri Lankans who traveled to the so-called Islamic caliphate, some of whom apparently have returned. Were they part of this group? Did they make contacts with Al Qaeda or with the Islamic state? Those are open questions,” said Hoffman.
He added, “I just don't believe this was a locally-conducted attack. There’s too many people. Already 24 arrested. It’s a massive undertaking with a support network I think that would demand international collaboration but we don't have a lot of facts.”
The six nearly simultaneous blasts—followed hours later by two more explosions—marked the bloodshed as among the worst since the South Asian country’s 26-year civil war ended a decade ago, a spokesperson for the Sri Lanka police said.
Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne said all of the suicide bombers were Sri Lankan citizens from a domestic Muslim militant group named National Thowfeek Jamaath, but that authorities suspect foreign links.
Police said more than a dozen suspects have been arrested, though there was no immediate claim of responsibility.
“This terrorist attack really bears all the hallmarks of an Al Qaeda attack, where you had three churches and three hotels frequented by foreigners all attacked over a short amount of time and over distance, that's a traditional way that Al Qaeda likes to mount attacks. Multiple spectacular attacks to drive first responders to multiple areas and achieve maximum effect in the press afterwards,” said Hoffman. “What’s surprising about this attack is that no one thus far has claimed responsibility.”
He added, “The security services in Sri Lanka are in the unenviable position right now of simultaneously conducting forensics to determine what happened and then try to determine whether there are other threats out there that they need to preempt. Just today a ninth improvised explosive device was found near the airport, so there’s a lot of concern.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.