Saudi embassy in Sri Lanka tells citizens to leave as threat of further attacks stays high

Alaina Teplitz said there is to reason to believe that the terrorist group has not been fully rendered. (AFP/File)
Updated 30 April 2019
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Saudi embassy in Sri Lanka tells citizens to leave as threat of further attacks stays high

  • The ambassador said some of the members who have not been captured yet could be still planning attacks
  • She did not reveal information on how the FBI is assisting in the investigation

COLOMBO: Saudi Arabia advised its nationals to leave Sri Lanka, Al-Ekhbariya state TV reported on Tuesday, citing the Kingdom's embassy in Colombo.

"Due to the current security situation in the Republic of Sri Lanka, the embassy advises citizens in Sri Lanka to leave," the embassy said in a tweet.

The advice follows suicide bomb attacks on hotels and churches that killed more than 250 people, including 42 foreign nationals, on April 21.

The warning follows an announcement by the US ambassador on Tuesday that some of the militants involved in the Easter Sunday bombings on the island were likely still at large and could be planning fresh attacks.

Sri Lankan security forces also said they were maintaining a high level of alert amid intelligence reports that the militants were likely to strike before the start of the holy Islamic month of Ramadan.

“Tremendous progress has been made toward apprehending those plotters but I don’t think the story is over yet,” Ambassador Alaina Teplitz said in an interview. “We do believe that there is active planning under way (for more attacks).”

Scores of suspected extremists have been arrested in the multi-ethnic island nation since April 21 suicide bomb attacks on hotels and churches that killed more than 250 people, including 42 foreign nationals.

“Security will stay tight for several days because military and police are still tracking down suspects,” a senior police intelligence official said.

Another government source told Reuters a document has been circulated among key security establishments instructing police and security forces across the country to remain on high alert because the militants were expected to try a strike before Ramadan.

Ramadan is scheduled to begin in Sri Lanka on May 6. Teplitz told Reuters that the risk of more attacks remained real.

“We certainly have reason to believe that the active attack group has not been fully rendered inactive,” she said.

The US Federal Bureau of Investigation is assisting Sri Lankan authorities in the investigations but Teplitz declined to give more details.

The government has lifted a ban on social media platforms such as Facebook, WhatsApp and viber, a source at the president’s office said. The ban had been imposed immediately after the attacks to prevent the spread of rumors. The government has also banned women from wearing face veils under an emergency law put in place after the Easter attacks.

Authorities suspect members of two previously little-known groups — National Thawheedh Jamaath (NTJ) and Jammiyathul Millathu Ibrahim — of carrying out the attacks, although Daesh has claimed responsibility.

Authorities believe Zahran Hashim, the founder of NTJ, was the mastermind and one of the nine suicide bombers.

In India, police said they had arrested a 29-year-old man in the southern state of Kerala, close to Sri Lanka, for planning similar attacks there. The man had been influenced by speeches made by Zahran, the government’s National Investigation Agency said in a statement. Sri Lanka’s 22 million population is mostly Buddhist but includes minority Christians, Muslims and Hindus.


Latest sex accusation against Trump lands with a thud

Updated 27 June 2019
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Latest sex accusation against Trump lands with a thud

  • Carroll, a feature writer and Elle advice columnist, revealed her accusation against Trump in an excerpt to an upcoming book
  • Trump and her allies have responded by casting Carroll aside as an opportunist
Nearly a week after the latest sexual misconduct accusation against President Donald Trump, the story has largely landed with a thud.
Some see the muted response to author E. Jean Carroll’s allegation of Trump assaulting her in a department store dressing room more than two decades ago as yet another example of the divisive Politics of Trump: Those who support him dismiss it as fake news. Those against him see it as confirmation of what they knew all along.
“Essentially, you’re either for him or against him, and if you’re for him, it doesn’t matter what he’s done,” said Larry Sabato, who directs the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics. “It really is remarkable. He simply is exempt from the rules everyone else must obey.”
It’s a cycle that’s been repeated before. After more than a dozen women came forward during Trump’s 2016 campaign with allegations of sexual misconduct years earlier, Trump called them “liars” who sought to harm his campaign with “100-percent fabricated” stories. When the “Access Hollywood” tape emerged weeks before the election of him bragging about grabbing women by the genitals, he dismissed it as “locker room talk.”
In the case of Carroll, a feature writer and longtime Elle advice columnist, her accusation was revealed in an excerpt to an upcoming book, leading Trump and others to cast her aside as an opportunist. Her book, “What Do We Need Men For? A Modest Proposal,” describes what she calls a lifetime of encounters with predatory men, starting with her early years as an Indiana cheerleader and pageant winner.
She said that Trump, in the mid-1990s, followed her into a dressing room after a chance encounter at the high-end New York department store Bergdorf Goodman and proceeded to pull down her tights and sexually assault her. Trump, in denying the account on Monday, said she’s “not my type,” a stunning remark from a US president that briefly breathed life into the story.
But even ranking Democrats such as Sen. Richard Durbin of Illinois were resigned to how it would all play out. “I wouldn’t dismiss it,” he told The Washington Post, “but let’s be honest, he’s going to deny it and little is going to come of it.”
Lawyer Debra Katz, who represented Christine Blasey Ford in her Senate testimony on her alleged high school assault by then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, concurred.
“The electorate knew this about him. This is nothing new about his character or his behavior — at this point there have been, what, 13 credible accusers?” Katz said. “People have become inure to it. And it’s disgraceful.”
Carroll, who did not return messages left on her cell phone from The Associated Press this week, stopped short in various television interviews of calling what happened to her rape and described the experience as a “three-minute” ordeal that did not change her life. Carroll has said she doesn’t plan to seek criminal charges and it appears the statute of limitations has run out.
“I’m a mature woman. I can handle it,” she said on MSNBC. “My life has gone on. I’m a happy woman.”
It didn’t help that Carroll’s book excerpt dropped late last Friday and was largely drowned out by events of the week: the refugee crisis at the border, the US brinkmanship with Iran and the regular onslaught of news about the environment, the economy and the 2020 election.
“We are trauma-fatigued by the volume of despairing issues seemingly beyond our personal control,” said Carrie Goldberg, a New York lawyer who represents victims of sexual assault and revenge porn. “When a solution feels beyond grasp, it can be impossible to muster an appropriate emotional reaction.”
Sen. Mazie Hirnono, a Hawaii Democrat, called it a sad day when a rape accusation against the president leaves the country numb.
“With this president you have the Iran situation going on, you have North Korea going on, you have the border crisis going on,” she said. “So after a while you just practically throw up your hands.”