Sri Lanka dismantles big part of bombers’ network, freezes assets

Acting police chief Chandana Wickramaratne said almost all suspects and plotters involved in the April 21 attacks had either been arrested or were dead. (File/AFP)
Updated 07 May 2019

Sri Lanka dismantles big part of bombers’ network, freezes assets

  • Investigators are still tracking down 10 more key players associated with plotting the bombings
  • The bombings killed more than 250 people, including 42 foreigners

COLOMBO: Sri Lankan authorities say they have dismantled a major part of the network linked to the Easter Sunday bombings, confiscating bomb-making material and freezing assets worth about $40 million linked to the plotters.
In an audio statement issued by the defense ministry on Monday, acting police chief Chandana Wickramaratne said almost all suspects and plotters involved in the April 21 attacks had either been arrested or were dead.
“There were also two people among that group of plotters who are experts in bombs and those two are dead now,” Wickramarate said. “They had stored part of the explosives for future attacks and we have confiscated all of this.”
Investigators are still tracking down 10 more key players associated with plotting the bombings, which killed more than 250 people, including 42 foreigners, a military source told Reuters on Tuesday.
“The investigations show there were another 8 to 10 people who attended meetings with the other plotters,” the source said.
Assets worth about $40 million belonging to the bombers and plotters linked to the April 21 attacks have been frozen, police spokesman Ruwan Gunesekera said.
Sri Lankan authorities have said the bombings were believed to have been carried out by two little-known domestic Islamist groups, the National Tawheed Jamaath (NTJ) and Jamathei Millathu Ibrahim (JMI). Islamic State has claimed responsibility.
Investigators from eight countries, including the US Federal Bureau of Investigation and Interpol, are helping Sri Lanka with the investigation.
In focus are whether the plotters had any foreign help, the sources of funding and if the bombers had any credible link to Islamic State.
Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena told Reuters over the weekend that all indications pointed to Islamic State involvement.


Kashmir protesters defy restrictions, clash with security forces

Updated 23 August 2019

Kashmir protesters defy restrictions, clash with security forces

  • Paramilitary police tried to enter Soura, which has emerged as a center of the protests, as hundreds demonstrated against Narendra Modi’s decision to withdraw autonomy
  • Posters appeared overnight in Srinagar, the Muslim-majority region’s main city, calling for a march to the office of the UN Military Observer Group for India and Pakistan

SRINAGAR, India: Security forces used tear gas against stone-throwing local residents in Indian Kashmir’s main city of Srinagar on Friday, after a third straight week of protests in the restive Soura district despite the imposition of tight restrictions.
Paramilitary police tried to enter Soura, which has emerged as a center of the protests, as hundreds of locals staged a protest march against Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to withdraw autonomy for Jammu and Kashmir on Aug. 5.
Posters appeared overnight this week in Srinagar, the Muslim-majority region’s main city, calling for a march to the office of the UN Military Observer Group for India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP), to protest against India’s decision.
This was the first such call by separatists seeking Kashmir’s secession from India. India’s move was accompanied by travel and communication restrictions in Kashmir that are still largely in place, although some landlines were restored last week.
The UNMOGIP was set up in 1949 after the first war between India and Pakistan over Kashmir, a Himalayan region both countries claim in full but rule in part. The group monitors cease-fire violations along the border between the countries.
In a narrow lane of Soura, blocked like many others with rocks and sheets of metal, residents hurled stones at the paramilitary police to stop them moving into an area around the local mosque, Jinab Sahib, which had earlier been packed for Friday prayers.
The police responded with several rounds of tear gas and chili grenades but were beaten back by dozens of stone-pelting men. Some men suffered pellet injuries.
The locals said the security forces had been repeatedly trying to move into Soura, often using tear gas and pellets.
“We are neither safe at home, nor outside,” said Rouf, who declined to give his full name. He had rubbed salt into his face to counteract the effects of tear gas.
The afternoon had begun peacefully, with men and women streaming into Jinab Sahib for afternoon prayers. A cleric then raised a call for “Azadi” – Urdu for freedom – several times, and declared Kashmir’s allegiance to neighboring Pakistan.
“Long live Pakistan,” the cleric said, as worshippers roared back in approval.
US President Donald Trump plans to discuss Kashmir when he meets Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the sidelines of a G7 meeting in France this weekend, a senior US administration official said on Thursday.
Trump, who has offered to mediate between India and Pakistan, will press Modi on how he plans to calm regional tensions after the withdrawal of Kashmir’s autonomy, and stress the need for dialogue, the official said.
Some Indian media reports on Friday said “terrorists” were trying to enter India from Afghanistan, citing unnamed government officials.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan responded on Twitter on Friday that such claims were being made to “divert attention” away from what he called human rights violations in Kashmir.
“The Indian leadership will in all probability attempt a false flag operation to divert attention,” Khan said.
Khan’s comments came a day after United Nations experts called on the Indian government to “end the crackdown on freedom of expression, access to information and peaceful protests” in Kashmir, saying it would increase regional tensions.
“The blackout is a form of collective punishment of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, without even a pretext of a precipitating offense,” they said in a statement.
At least 152 people have been hurt by teargas and pellets since security forces launched their crackdown, data from the Himalayan region’s two main hospitals shows.
Large swathes of Srinagar remain deserted with shops shut except for some provision stores with shutters half-down. Police vans patrolled some areas announcing a curfew and asking people to stay indoors.
On the Dal Lake, long rows of houseboats, normally packed with tourists at this time of year, floated closed and empty, as police patrolled its mirror-calm waters in boats.