BBC Documentary Series on 21/4 Jihadist Terror in Sri Lanka

A Two-Part Series

ONE = Confirmed for BBC Two on 6 April at 9pm to 10pm


ONE = Terror in Paradise

It started out as a peaceful Sunday in Sri Lanka, as families gathered to celebrate Easter in places of worship and tourists relaxing on beaches. But it would end with suicide bombs being triggered in churches and hotels across Sri Lanka, killing over 270 people.

One year on from the devastating attack, reporter Jane Corbin (pictured) visits Sri Lanka and talks to experts, survivors and those who came face to face with the killers.

It was the worst Islamist terror attack the country had ever seen. Backpacks weighing 50 pounds were packed tightly with sharp iron nails, ball bearings and a high explosive, and set off in tourist hotspots and churches on one of Christianity’s holiest days.

Examining hours of CCTV footage that track the bombers’ every move, Jane Corbin investigates what happened in the lead up to the deadly attacks and the moment the killers detonated their bombs.

But how did this carefully planned attack manage to go ahead? The ringleader of the group, Zahran Hashim, had evaded the authorities for so long. Not only was he under surveillance for several years before he masterminded the bombings, he had been producing increasingly extremist content. Police even discovered a secret arms cache. So why were there so many missed opportunities?

Jane Corbin hears tales of heartache from the survivors of the attack who lost loved ones, including mother Dhulsini and her 11 year-old son Kieran, who lived in the USA. They were visiting her mother in Sri Lanka when the bomb exploded at the Cinnamon Grand Hotel during breakfast, and a piece of shrapnel pierced Kieran’s heart. It proved fatal. Like many other people, Dhulsini came round after the bomb to face her nightmare.

Jane also learns more about the new technology that the terrorist group had been experimenting with: can it provide clues for what kind of attack could be coming next?

  TWO = Terror in Paradise …

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Ameer Ali, ACL  2009a “The Transformation of Muslim Politics in Sri Lanka and the Growth of Wahhabism from the 1980s,” 5 May 2009,

Ameer Ali, ACL 2019b “How Extremisms have fed off Each Other in Sri Lanka, 1950s-to-2019 … and still proceeding,”  6 May 2019,

Cook, David 2006 Understanding Jihad, University of California Press.

Cook, David 2015 ‘Jihad’, ‘Martyrdom Operations’, and Mohammed Atta’s Injunction in the “last Night’, before 9/11,” 12 May 2015,

Farook, Shihara 2019 “Shihara Farook assails Extremism. A Biography and CounterCurrent of Significance,” 8 May 2019,

Jayasuriya, Wilfrid 2019 “The Force of the Moors: Reflections Historical and Ethnographic,” 25 June 2019,

MA Nuhman: Sri Lankan Muslims: Ethnic Identity within Cultural Diversity, Colombo, ICES, 2007

Roberts, Michael 2009 “Marakkala kolahalaya: Mentalities directing the Pogrom of 1915,” in Roberts, Confrontations in Sri Lanka, Colombo, Vijitha Yapa Publications, 2009, pp. 113-154.

Roberts, Michael 2017 “Anguish as Empowerment … and A Path to Retribution,” 22 March 2017,

Roberts, Michael 2019 “Slippages: Where ‘Muslim’ is An Ethnic Label as well as a Religious Typification,”  3 May 2018,

Roberts, Michael: 2019  “”The Clash of Civilisations and Hate at the Heart of 21/4 in Sri Lanka,”14 May 2019,

MAM Shukri: Muslims of Sri Lanka, Beruwela, 1986

Thuppahi Item:  2019 “The Death Toll in Sri Lanka: Ethnicity,”  4 May 2019,

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Filed under accountability, atrocities, conspiracies, fundamentalism, historical interpretation, Indian religions, Islamic fundamentalism, island economy, life stories, Muslims in Lanka, politIcal discourse, power politics, religiosity, security, self-reflexivity, sri lankan society, suicide bombing, trauma, travelogue, unusual people, vengeance, world events & processes

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