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Pompeo says Sri Lanka attacks likely "inspired by ISIS"

Pompeo: Sri Lanka attacks "inspired by ISIS"

The full "Intelligence Matters" interview with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will be available May 1, on iTunesSpotify and Stitcher. "Intelligence Matters" celebrates its first anniversary as a CBS News production since its relaunch last May. Excerpts of the interview will air on "Red and Blue" on CBSN.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Wednesday that the terrorist attacks carried out in Sri Lanka over the weekend were likely to have been"inspired by ISIS," given the attacks' size and complexity. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attacks on Tuesday.

"Every indication is that this was, at the very least, inspired by ISIS," Pompeo told CBS News senior national security analyst and former CIA Acting Director Michael Morell in an interview for Morell's podcast "Intelligence Matters." "And I think we'll have more information developed about whether there were any actual connections. The scale, the complexity of the attack certainly would be something a good analyst like yourself would stare at and say, 'We need to dig really hard. The capacity for a local group to pull off a relatively complex, simultaneous attack, it could happen.' But it's probably the case that there were others assisting them."  

The terrorist attacks, which were among the five deadliest carried out since the 9/11 attacks in 2001, targeted Christian churches and luxury hotels filled with foreign tourists and business travelers. While a domestic insurgent group known as National Thowfeek Jamaath was said by Sri Lankan authorities to have been the source of the seven suicide bombers who carried out the attack, investigators are still gathering information and evidence about how much outside help the group received. 

The attacks on the Sri Lankan capital follow the White Houses' announcement last month that ISIS' territorial caliphate had been totally eliminated in Syria. Pompeo acknowledged that ISIS and other terrorist networks would would continue to pose a threat to the U.S.

"Even apart from the Sri Lanka incident, it's absolutely the case that the capacity for ISIS and other radical Islamic terror groups, Sunni terror groups remains," Pompeo told Morell. "We have Al Qaeda in the Arabian peninsula that still has real capacity to put the United States at risk through its expertise. There are lots of pockets we could walk through. But this challenge of taking down these networks is something the United States is going to have to continue to stay right on top of."

Morell asked about the timeline of that commitment. "For a long time," Pompeo responded. "For decades? Generations?" Morell pressed.  

"Yeah, almost certainly the case that they show no sign of ideologically having waivered from their desire to conduct attacks on the West," Pompeo said. "And that means we're going to have to be vigilant for an awfully long time."

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