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Sri Lankan military officers inspecting damage from the bomb blast at St. Sebastian's Church, in Negombo, Sri Lanka, on April 22, 2019. Photo: Tharaka Basnayaka/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The terrorist attack Sunday in Sri Lanka that killed 290 — including several U.S. citizens — and wounded another 500 was among the top 5 deadliest attacks outside of a war zone since 9/11. The group blamed by the Sri Lankan government for the attack, National Thowheeth Jama’ath, was not publicly known in the West.

Why it matters: The Sri Lankan attacks are an important reminder that jihadist terrorism remains a significant threat, especially in the region spanning West Africa to Southeast Asia. There are at least 3 times as many Islamic extremists in the world today as there were on 9/11. This form of terrorism could persist for generations.

Between the lines: The Easter Sunday attacks underscores how quickly a group can move from a limited capability to an ability to kill hundreds. Prior to the attack, the State Department had not provided any terrorist-related warnings to U.S. citizens traveling to Sri Lanka — a reflection of how quickly the group emerged.

What to watch: The backgrounds of the attackers remain unknown. It is possible that at least some were among the tens of thousands who traveled to Iraq and Syria to fight for ISIS from 2014 to 2017, only to come home as the caliphate crumbled. The threat posed by these “returnees” to dozens of countries will continue to worry security and intelligence officials.

Michael Morell is global chairman of geopolitical risk at Beacon Global Strategies, a former deputy director of the CIA and host of the podcast "Intelligence Matters."

Go deeper

Indianapolis mass shooting suspect legally bought 2 guns, police say

Marion County Forensic Services vehicles are parked at the site of a mass shooting at a FedEx facility in Indianapolis, Indiana, on Friday. Photo: Jeff Dean/AFP via Getty Images

The suspected gunman in this week's mass shooting at a FedEx facility in Indianapolis legally purchased two assault rifles believed to have been used in the attack, police said late Saturday.

Of note: The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department's statement that Brandon Scott Hole, 19, bought the rifles last July and September comes a day after the FBI said in a statement to news outlets that a "shotgun was seized" from the suspect in March 2020 after his mother raised concerns about his mental health.

U.S. and China agree to take joint climate action

US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry waves as he arrives at the Elysee Presidential Palace on March 10, 2021 in Paris. Photo: Chesnot/Getty Images

Despite an increasingly tense relationship, the U.S. and China agreed Saturday to work together to tackle global climate change, including by "raising ambition" for emissions cuts during the 2020s — a key goal of the Biden administration.

Why it matters: The joint communique released Saturday evening commits the world's two largest emitters of greenhouse gases to work together to keep the most ambitious temperature target contained in the Paris Climate Agreement viable by potentially taking additional emissions cuts prior to 2030.

Biden defends not immediately raising refugee cap

President Biden speaking with reporters after leaving his cart following his first round of golf as president at Wilmington Country Club in Wilmington, Delaware, on Saturday. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden on Saturday sought to explain why he didn't immediately lift the Trump administration's historically low refugee cap.

Driving the news: Several Democrats accused Biden Friday of not fulfilling his pledge to raise the limit after it was announced he'd keep the cap. The White House said later it would be raised by May 15. Biden told reporters Saturday, "We're going to increase the number."