Wanted Sri Lanka radical Hashim killed in hotel attack

Over 300 people died during the attacks. (File/AFP)
Updated 27 April 2019
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Wanted Sri Lanka radical Hashim killed in hotel attack

  • Hashim appeared in a video released by the Daesh group after they claimed the bombings
  • Inspector General of Police Pujith Jayasundara resigned over failures that led to the deadly Easter bomb attacks

COLOMBO: An extremist believed to have played a key role in Sri Lanka’s deadly Easter bombings died in an attack on a Colombo hotel, the country’s president confirmed Friday.
“What intelligence agencies have told me is that Zahran was killed during the Shangri-La attack,” President Maithripala Sirisena told reporters, referring to Zahran Hashim, leader of a local extremist group.
Hashim appeared in a video released by the Daesh group after they claimed the bombings, but his whereabouts after the blasts was not immediately clear.
Sirisena did not immediately clarify what Hashim’s role was in the attack on the Shangri-La, one of six bomb blasts that killed over 250 people on Sunday.

Meanwhile, Sri Lanka’s top police official, Inspector General of Police Pujith Jayasundara, has resigned over failures that led to the deadly Easter bomb attacks, the country’s president said Friday.
“The IGP has resigned. He has sent his resignation to the acting defense secretary. I’ll nominate a new IGP soon,” President Maithripala Sirisena told reporters.
Sirisena’s nominee has to be confirmed by a constitutional council.
The resignation comes after the country’s top defense ministry official, defense secretary Hemasiri Fernando resigned on Thursday.

Sirisena also said police are looking for 140 people believed to have links with the Daesh group over the attacks.
Sirisena told reporters some Sri Lankan youths had been involved with the extremist group since 2013, and that top defense and police chiefs had not shared information with him about the impending attacks.
He also blamed Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s government for weakening the intelligence system by focusing on the prosecution of military officers over alleged war crimes during a decade-long civil war with Tamil separatists.


New Chicago mayor gives Arabs hope

Updated 9 min 21 sec ago
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New Chicago mayor gives Arabs hope

  • The election of Lori Lightfoot as mayor gives Chicago’s Arabs an opportunity to reverse the damage that Rahm Emanuel has caused
  • Emanuel’s first acts as mayor included blocking the annual Arabesque Festival, which Jewish groups complained against

Plagued by ongoing controversies and criticism that he tried to hide a video of Chicago police killing a black teenager in October 2014, Rahm Emanuel decided he had had enough as the city’s mayor and decided to retire.

Elected in 2011 with a big boost from his former boss, US President Barack Obama — also a Chicago native — Emanuel served two full terms.

But his hopes of reversing the city’s tumbling finances, improving its poorly performing schools, and reversing record gun-related violence and killings, all failed.

However, Emanuel did have one success. He managed to gut the involvement of Chicago’s Arab-American minority in city-sponsored events, responding favorably to its influential Jewish-American community leadership, which complained about Palestinian activists who advocated for statehood and challenged Israeli oppression.

Emanuel’s first acts as mayor included blocking the annual Arabesque Festival, which Jewish groups complained included photographs of Palestinians protesting against Israel. The festival had only been launched four years earlier by his predecessor in 2007.

Emanuel also disbanded the Advisory Commission on Arab Affairs, and ended Arab American Heritage Month, which had been held every November since it was recognized by Harold Washington, Chicago’s first black mayor.

Emanuel refused to discuss his reasons for these decisions with leaders of Chicago’s Arab community.

He declined repeated requests by me to interview him, despite my having interviewed seven Chicago mayors. He declined similar requests from other Arab journalists.

While he hosted iftars for Muslims, he never hosted an Arab heritage celebration during his eight years in office.

His father was a leader of the Irgun, which was denounced as a terrorist organization in the 1940s by the British military.

The Irgun murdered British soldiers and thousands of Palestinian civilians, and orchestrated the bloody Deir Yassin massacre on April 9, 1948.

Before becoming mayor, Emanuel volunteered at an Israeli military base repairing damaged vehicles. His pro-Israel stance was never challenged by the mainstream US news media.

But with the election in February of Lori Lightfoot as mayor, Chicago’s Arabs have an opportunity to reverse the damage that Emanuel caused.

Lightfoot was sworn into office on Monday and serves for four years. She has already reached out to Arabs, appointing at least two Palestinians to her 400-person transition team, whose members often remain and assume government positions with new administrations.

The two Palestinians in her transition team are Rush Darwish and Rami Nashashibi. Darwish has organized several successful marathons in Chicago and Bethlehem to raise funds for the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund. Nashashibi is involved with the Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN).

As an African American, Lightfoot knows what it is like to be the victim of racism, stereotypes and discrimination. That makes her more sensitive to the concerns of Chicago’s Arabs.