Buddhist extremists hold first meeting after Easter attacks in Sri Lanka

Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara Thero (R), head of the hardline Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) or "Buddhist Power Force", speaks at the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic before the Buddhist monks convention in Kandy, Sri Lanka July 7. 2019. (REUTERS)
Updated 08 July 2019

Buddhist extremists hold first meeting after Easter attacks in Sri Lanka

  • Many shopkeepers and restaurant owners in Kandy said they planned to close their establishments on Sunday for fear of violence

KANDY: Police lined the streets of the Sri Lankan highland town of Kandy on Sunday and the army was on standby as hard-line Buddhist monks gathered for their first big assembly since Easter attacks by Islamist extremists on churches and luxury hotels.
Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara, the influential head of the Buddhist nationalist group Bodu Bala Sena (BBS), had called for as many as 10,000 clergymen from across the country to attend the meet.
The group said the gathering discussed who to back in the presidential elections later this year in the Indian Ocean island nation where Buddhists make up about 70 percent of the population. The rest include ethnic Tamils, who are mostly Hindus, and Muslims.
Dressed in orange, Gnanasara visited one of Buddhism’s most sacred temples in Kandy on Sunday where a relic believed to be the Buddha’s tooth is kept. Later, the hard-liner, who has faced allegations of inciting violence against Muslims, addressed the gathering.
After visiting the temple, he told reporters they would take a “historical decision” to give leadership for the development and security of the Sinhalese.
“Today, the Sinhala ethnicity, which has developed this country historically, has become very weak ... There is no leader who holds responsibility for Sinhalese,” he said adding some people were trying to sabotage the convention by spreading fears of possible riots.

FASTFACT

• There has been increasing anti-Muslim violence in the country in recent weeks, blamed in part on Buddhist groups, in apparent reprisal for the April bombings claimed by Daesh that killed more than 250 people.

• Muslims have become fearful of a backlash, especially from hard-line groups such as the BBS that are leading the campaign against extremism.

“The army is assisting the police on security under the emergency law,” military spokesman Sumith Atapattu said, adding soldiers were on alert should trouble erupt.
There has been increasing anti-Muslim violence in the country in recent weeks, blamed in part on Buddhist groups, in apparent reprisal for the April bombings claimed by Daesh that killed more than 250 people.
Muslims have become fearful of a backlash, especially from hard-line groups such as the BBS that are leading the campaign against extremism.
Many shopkeepers and restaurant owners in Kandy said they planned to close their establishments on Sunday for fear of violence.


Bodies recovered near Greek island after chopper crash

Updated 20 August 2019

Bodies recovered near Greek island after chopper crash

  • 2 Russian passengers and a Greek pilot were on board
  • Chopper hit powerlines knocking out island’s electricity supply

ATHENS: The bodies of three men were recovered near the Greek island of Poros on Tuesday after a private helicopter crashed through power cables and into the sea, state agency ANA said.
Coast Guard spokesman Nikos Lagadianos said a total of three people were believed to have been on board — a Greek pilot and two foreign passengers.
ANA said the two foreigners were Russian.
A local official had earlier said the crash knocked out power across the small island.
“There was a great flash and the helicopter’s fuel exploded,” deputy Poros mayor Yiorgos Koutouzis told state TV ERT.
“It hit power cables around a 100 meters (yards) from the sea,” he said, adding: “The island is now without electricity.”
The helicopter fell shortly after takeoff from Galata, the nearest coastal village on the mainland facing Poros, 170 kilometers (105 miles) southwest of Athens.
The coast guard said search crews, including six of its vessels, divers and a rescue helicopter, were examining the wreckage site.
Poros is a small picturesque island off the eastern coast of the Peloponnese that is popular with holidaymakers.