All suspects in Sri Lanka bombings arrested or dead — acting police chief

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Sri Lanka’s acting police chief said all the suspects in the Easter bombings have been arrested or are dead. (AFP)
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Sri Lankan military stand guard outside a mosque near Negombo after Sunday’s clashes between two sectarian groups in the area. (Reuters)
Updated 06 May 2019

All suspects in Sri Lanka bombings arrested or dead — acting police chief

  • 600 foreigners who have overstayed their visas, including 200 Muslim clerics, deported
  • Cardinal appeals to Christians, Buddhists and Muslims to show restraint

COLOMBO: All suspected plotters and those directly linked to Sri Lanka’s Easter Sunday bombings have either been arrested or are dead, the country’s acting police chief said on Monday.

In an audio statement circulated by the defense ministry, Chandana Wickramaratne, the acting Inspector General of Police, said security forces had also confiscated bomb-making material intended for future use by the militants involved in the attacks, which killed more than 250 people.

The Ministry of Home Affairs said it had deported 600 foreigners who have overstayed their visas, including 200 Muslim clerics.

Sri Lankan authorities have said the bombings were believed to have been carried out by two little-known local extremist groups, the National Tawheed Jamaath (NTJ) and Jamathei Millathu Ibrahim (JMI). Daesh has claimed responsibility.

The decision to deport the overstayers was taken during Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe’s meeting with Home Affairs Minister Vajira Abeywardena and Muslim Religious Affairs Minister M. H.A. Haleem recently.

“In a security crackdown following the bomb attacks, it was found that these clerics had entered the country (and) have overstayed their visas, for which fines were imposed before their deportation,” Home Affairs Minister Vajira Abeywardena said in Colombo.

“Considering the current situation in the country, we have reviewed the visa system and took a decision to tighten visa restrictions for religious teachers,” Abeywardena said, adding that those deported included 200 religious preachers.

Sajeewa Wijeweera, media secretary to the Ministry of Home Affairs, confirmed the deportation to Arab News on Monday. 

He said that the clerics were from Arab countries, refusing to provide more details about nationalities.

However, Arab News has learnt that the visa overstayers, in addition to clerics from Arab countries, were from Bangladesh, India, the Maldives and Pakistan.

They were allegedly involved in teaching Arabic to Muslim students in private schools, including madrasas. According to authorities, a majority of them have been deported, while the remaining people will be asked to leave the country in the coming weeks as the crackdown intensifies.

Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, archbishop of Colombo, appealed to Christians, Buddhists and Muslims to show restraint after clashes between Christians and Muslims in a town near Negombo scarred by the suicide attacks on April 21.

After a declaration made by President Maithripala Sirisena, the country is in a state of emergency and had been conducting house-to-house searches for explosives and propaganda brochures distributed by extremists.

Police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera said on Monday that the search operations have led to several arrests, and the discovery of weapons, army uniforms and ammunition.

Seven suspects believed to be linked to the National Thowheed Jamath (NTJ) were arrested in the Mukarawewa area in Horowpathana on Monday. The suspects were in possession of items and documents related to the organization.

Meanwhile, two individuals believed to have aided and abetted the terrorist identified as Rilwan, the brother of Zahran Hashmi, were arrested in the Kattankudy area on Monday.

The STF believes that Rilwan manufactured bombs in 2018 and suffered injuries while examining one of the bombs. 

The arrested suspects are believed to have helped him after the incident.

Police have found 456 sets of uniforms, which belong to the tri-forces, hidden in four places during a search operation carried out in Galle. 

A stock of military uniforms and official badges used on army uniforms were also found in a shop in the capital.

A person from Maradana-Beruwala was in possession of 50 swords while traveling from Colombo to Beruwala and distributed them to various persons. On a joint mission of the police and the army, 27 bullets, including 25 live bullets, were found inside gutters on the roof of a two-story shop in Bibile.

Speaking about the Sunday night unrest in Negombo, Gunasekera described it as an isolated incident.

“An argument between two individuals and later involvement of a group of people under the influence of liquor resulted in an altercation between two mobs,” the spokesman said.

He said that police immediately defused the situation and as an additional security measure, a curfew was imposed within the Negombo police division from the same night to 7 a.m. on Monday. He said that a number of acts of vandalism were reported from Negombo and neighboring places such as Katana and Kochchikade.

The second academic term for students of grade 6 and above classes began on Monday amid tight security and special traffic arrangements. 

The armed forces, police, civil security officers, parents and former students gathered at schools to provide protection. 

However, Mohamed Alawi, an official from the provincial ministry of education, told Arab News that the turnout was very low.


(With Reuters)

UN gives Myanmar aid cut warning over Rohingya camp closures

Updated 12 min 33 sec ago

UN gives Myanmar aid cut warning over Rohingya camp closures

  • Myanmar has closed several camps holding around 9,000 Rohingya
  • They have not been allowed to return to their former homes and remain dependent on handouts

YANGON: The UN has warned it will pare back aid to thousands of Rohingya Muslims left destitute as Myanmar’s government closes camps in Rakhine state, over fears its continued support “risks entrenching segregation.”
Aid agencies are facing an increasingly sharp dilemma in the region as they balance relief for desperate communities with leverage over the government.
The majority of Myanmar’s Rohingya were driven into Bangladesh by a 2017 army crackdown, but around 400,000 remain inside conflict-battered Rakhine.
Those include nearly 130,000 held since 2012 in squalid camps, currently supported by UN agencies and humanitarian groups.
As part of its strategy to address the crisis, Myanmar has closed several camps holding around 9,000 Rohingya.
But they have not been allowed to return to their former homes and remain dependent on handouts. Instead, they are being settled in new accommodation close to the former camps.
That has sparked fears aid agencies are effectively being used to prop-up a policy that fails to address the fundamental needs of the Rohingya, including housing, work, food and security.
The camp closure plan “risks entrenching segregation,” UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Myanmar Knut Ostby wrote to the government in a leaked letter, dated 6 June and seen by AFP.
The letter, also written on behalf of aid groups, warned support “beyond life-saving assistance” at the closed sites would in future be linked to “tangible” progress made on “the fundamental issue of freedom of movement.”
“Life-saving” support includes food, health and water, but site planning, shelter construction and education facilities could be phased out, aid agency sources told AFP.
The UN has faced criticism for a slow response to violence against the Rohingya, which escalated after 2012 riots between Muslim Rohingyas and ethnic Rakhine Buddhists.
A UN report released Monday admitted “systemic failures” in its handling of the build-up to the Rohingya crisis.
Limited access to Rakhine’s camps makes independent reporting on conditions difficult.
But AFP has reviewed recent interviews conducted in five camps by an NGO requesting anonymity to protect its work.
“If I build a house, it can be seized arbitrarily,” one Rohingya man said.
“I have no right to the land and I can also be arrested at any time.”
An aid worker called the remaining 23 sites in Rakhine little more than “concentration camps.”
On condition of anonymity, she spoke of the “complicity” humanitarian staff feel for perpetuating the segregation.
Amnesty International has described Rakhine as an “apartheid state.”
All aid must be “heavily conditioned,” researcher Laura Haigh said, warning donors that building infrastructure could make them complicit in crimes against humanity.
The government defended the camp closures, telling AFP it would continue working with the UN and NGOs on the issue.
Any former camp resident holding a National Verification Card (NVC) will be able to “move freely within their township” and access “education, health facilities and livelihood activities,” the social welfare ministry said.
Most Rohingya refuse to apply for the card believing they should already be treated as full citizens.
Those interviewed said the few to have caved had no more rights than anyone else.
They were also forced to designate themselves as “Bengali,” a term implying they are from Bangladesh.
“They are just trying to dominate us and make us illegal through different ways,” one Rohingya man said.