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

Updated 9 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Politics: Pence chief of staff Marc Short tests positive for coronavirus — COVID-19 looms over White House Halloween celebrations.
  2. Health: Fauci says maybe we should mandate masks if people don't wear them — America was sick well before it ever got COVID-19.
  3. World: Polish President Andrzej Duda tests positive for COVID-19.
What Matters 2020

The missed opportunities for 2020 and beyond

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photos: Jason Armond (Los Angeles Times), Noam Galai, Jabin Botsford (The Washington Post), Alex Wong/Getty Images

As the 2020 presidential campaign draws to a close, President Trump and Joe Biden have focused little on some of the most sweeping trends that will outlive the fights of the moment.

Why it matters: Both have engaged on some issues, like climate change and China, on their own terms, and Biden has addressed themes like economic inequality that work to his advantage. But others have gone largely unmentioned — a missed opportunity to address big shifts that are changing the country.

Pence chief of staff Marc Short tests positive for coronavirus

Marc Short with Katie Miller, Vice President Pence's communications director, in March. Photo: Doug Mills/The New York Times via Reuters

Marc Short, Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff, tested positive for the coronavirus Saturday and is quarantining, according to a White House statement.

Why it matters: Short is Pence's closest aide, and was one of the most powerful forces on the White House coronavirus task force.