Tag Archive | "Sri Lanka"

Sri Lanka, a foreign hand behind the attacks


NOVANEWS

On Easter Sunday, eight explosions hit churches and  hotels in Sri Lanka causing hundreds of deaths and injuries.The Sri Lankan government has temporarily blocked social media throughout the country and imposed a curfew, while security forces are still in operation . Yesterday a new attack hit Colombo .

Sri Lanka

On the morning of Easter Sunday, eight simultaneous  explosives exploded during the Easter celebrations , causing deaths and injuries, in the churches of St. Anthony in Columbus,  St. Sebastian in Negombo and the Christian Baptist Zion Church in Batticaloa. Hotels frequented by tourists in Colombo, the Shangri-La, the Kingsbury and the Cinnamon Grand Colombo, and a small hotel in Dehiwala, on the southern outskirts, were also targeted  . The eighth explosion, in Dematagoda, a north-eastern suburb of Colombo, was caused by a suicide bomber who killed three policemen who entered a house to search it. Three other officers were killed in a blitz that led to the arrest of seven people.

Easter Monday saw a new attack near the church of St. Anthony in Colombo. In the afternoon  a big explosion in a van, while the bomb squad was defusing the device. The police also found 87 detonators near Colombo’s main bus station.

The budget of the Easter attacks in the three cities of the island has risen to at least 321 dead and five hundred wounded, said the spokesman of the police, Ruwan Gunasekara, including at least 36 foreign citizens of at least eight different nationalities (Turkish, Pakistani , Bengali, Indian, Moroccan, American, Japanese and Danish), and 500 wounded, of whom 30 are foreigners. Three of the four children of the Danish patron from Asos also lost their lives.

The attacks have not yet been claimed, but the government has assured that those responsible for the terrorist act have been identified and will soon be arrested. All Easter celebrations were canceled and a curfew was imposed from three in the afternoon with immediate effect and then from 8 pm. The use of social networks was also suspended.

On Sunday afternoon, the Defense Minister, Wijewardene announced the first seven arrests of suspects and specified that they all belong to the same group, without specifying which one. Behind the Easter attacks, the government later reported, there is a local terrorist group, the National Thowheed Jamath , also admitting  large flaws in its intelligence. The attack, which saw seven suicide bombers in action, took place with the help of an international network.  The police then stated that there are many more detainees and that they cannot “tell who is behind the attacks and what their intentions are until the investigation is completed”.

Condemnations and condolences from all over the world. The President of the Italian Republic, Sergio Mattarella , expressed “disdain and profound sadness” and confirmed Italy’s inflexible commitment “in the fight against all forms of terrorism and violence”. Pope Francis  urged everyone to condemn the Sri Lankan massacre.   

Foreign actors behind the level of sophistication of the attacks

Experts said that targeting churches and hotels where foreign tourists are staying in Sri Lanka, which has suffered several suicide attacks against officials and government installations during the civil war, has been a “new and worrying development” in the country predominantly Buddhist. “These synchronized attacks are out of the ordinary for Sri Lanka. Compared to similar attacks in the Middle East and South-East Asia, they have the DNA of attacks brought by the Islamic state and al-Qaeda, “ said Alto Labetubun, an anti-terrorist expert who followed the two groups for a decade.

Four of the bombs exploded at about the same time on Sunday, at 8.45am, with two more within 20 minutes. Two more explosions shook the city in the afternoon. Later the authorities found unexploded devices and a van full of explosives in various locations.

Sri Lanka has seen frequent suicide bombings before 2009, but T amil minority separatists attacked only government targets. Sunday’s attacks marked a shift to churches and places associated with Western interests, experts say. It is plausible that the attacks may have been inspired by Isis’ tactics and ideology . 

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Sri Lanka Gov’t Says Unknown Islamist Group Behind Attacks, Imposes Curfew


NOVANEWS
  • Teachers hold candles as they pray for the victims of Sri Lanka
    Teachers hold candles as they pray for the victims of Sri Lanka’s serial bomb blasts, at a school in Ahmedabad, India, April 22, 2019. | Photo: Reuters

Sri Lanka government accused a fringe militant Islamist group National Thowheed Jamath (NTJ) for the attacks on Easter Sunday.

The Sri Lankan government said Monday that Islamist group National Thowheed Jamath (NTJ) was behind the recent attacks in the country in which 290 people were killed and nearly 500 wounded.

RELATED: US Warns Terrorists Still Planning Attacks in Sri Lanka

NTJ is believed to have split from Sri Lanka Thowheed Jamath (SLTJ), another hardline group. SLTJ’s leader Abdul Razik was arrested in 2016.

NTJ is being considered as a fringe group of the minority Muslim community which constitutes only 9.7 percent of Sri Lankan population.

The island has been witnessing sweeping anti-Muslim bigotry mainly fed by majority Buddhist nationalists but it never had a history of Mulsim militants.

Investigators said seven suicide bombers took part in the attacks while a government spokesman said an international network was involved.

Police had received a tip-off of a possible attack on churches by a little-known domestic Islamist group some 10 days ago, according to a document seen by Reuters.

The intelligence report, dated April 11 said a foreign intelligence agency had warned authorities of possible attacks on churches by the leader of the group, the National Thawheed Jama’ut. It was not immediately clear what action, if any, was taken to address the reported threat.

Police said 24 people had been arrested, all of whom were Sri Lankan, but they gave no more details. “Still the investigations are going on,” Welianga said.

Cabinet spokesman Rajitha Senaratne said an international network was involved but did not elaborate. “We do not believe these attacks were carried out by a group of people who were confined to this country,” Senaratne said. “There was an international network without which these attacks could not have succeeded.”

Sri Lanka invoked emergency law which gives police and the military extensive powers to detain and interrogate suspects without court orders, which will go into effect at midnight Monday, the president’s office said.

Colombo, the seaside capital of the Indian Ocean island, was jittery on Monday. Police said 87 bomb detonators were found at the city’s main bus station, while an explosive went off near a church where scores were killed Sunday when bomb squad officials were trying to defuse it.

A night curfew will go into effect at 8 p.m., the government announced.

President Maithripala Sirisena said in a statement the government would seek foreign assistance to track the overseas links.

There were fears the attacks could spark communal violence, with police reporting late Sunday there had been a petrol bomb attack on a mosque in the northwest and arson attacks on two shops owned by Muslims in the west.

Questions over why the intelligence report warning was not acted upon could feed into a feud between Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and the president.

Sirisena fired the premier last year and installed opposition strongman Mahinda Rajapaksa in his stead. Weeks later, he was forced to re-instate Wickremesinghe because of pressure from the Supreme Court but their relationship is still fraught as a presidential election nears.

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Sri Lanka’s Unrecognized PM Resigns to Avoid Gov’t Shutdown


NOVANEWS
  • Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa is accused of crimes against humanity for his role in Sri Lanka
    Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa is accused of crimes against humanity for his role in Sri Lanka’s civil war. | Photo: Reuters

    Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa resigned Saturday, vowing to bring the opposition to “its knees” by organizing the people.

Sri Lanka’s embattled Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa resigned Saturday, only a month and a half after taking office to prevent an imminent government shutdown.

RELATED: Sri Lanka Speaker: Sacking ex-PM Was ‘Non-Violent Coup d’etat’

The South Asian island has been in political limbo since President Maithripala Sirisena in late October replaced former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe with Rajapaksa, who was then twice sacked by parliament but had refused to resign.

As a government shutdown loomed, Rajapaksa put in his papers and said in a statement Saturday that the change of government “the people expected” has now been put off.

“I have no intention of remaining as prime minister without a general election being held, and in order to not hamper the president in any way, I will resign from the position of prime minister and make way for the president to form a new government,” Rajapaksa said.

He emphasized the need for an election to resolve the country’s economic and political crisis and said the main challenge now was to form a government. He also spoke against what he described as the “destructive forces” of people seeking to restore their former offices.

“We will bring the forces opposed to the country down to their knees by organizing the people,” Rajapaksa said.

RELATED: Sri Lanka’s Parliament Halts Payment of Cabinet’s Salaries

Wickremesinghe’s office said Friday that Sirisena had called the former prime minister by telephone to invite him to be sworn back into office on Sunday. Sirisena had previously said he would not appoint Wickremesinghe “even if he has the backing of all 225 lawmakers in parliament.”

The country’s parliament had voted to cut the budget for Rajapaksa and his ministers after Sirisena had refused to accept no-confidence votes against Rajapaksa. Sirisena’s decision to replace former PM Wickremesinghe with Rajapaksa was seen by legislators as a non-violent coup d’etat.

It remains unclear how Sirisena plans to end the political crisis that threatens to shut down the government on Jan. 1, by which time a temporary budget must be approved by parliament.

On Friday, the country’s Supreme Court rejected Rajapaksa’s bid for an injunction on a lower court’s order that barred him and his cabinet from carrying out their roles in government.

Many foreign countries have refused to recognize Rajapaksa’s government.

Rajapaksa presided over a government victory against Tamil rebels in 2009, ending a bloody 26-year civil war. He has been accused of war crimes by international rights groups, and the United Nations has asked for a thorough investigation into alleged human rights violations.

Earlier this week, the island nation’s parliament passed a vote of confidence in favor of Wickremesinghe, as it sought his reinstatement as prime minister.

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