Sri Lanka declares state of emergency

Sri Lanka declares state of emergency
Lalitha, center, weeps over the coffin with the remains of 12-year old niece, Sneha Savindi in Sri Lanka, Monday. (AP)
COLOMBO, APR 22 | Publish Date: 4/22/2019 12:01:00 PM IST


Sri Lanka has enforced a state of emergency from midnight Monday in the wake of the deadly Easter blasts that killed 290 people and wounded more than 500 others, enhancing the counter terrorism powers of the security forces.
The decision was made during a meeting of the National Security Council (NSC) chaired by President Maithripala Sirisena.
Sirisena also gave the military sweeping police powers starting Tuesday to deal with situations of breaches of security.
The NSC has announced plans to impose a “conditional state of emergency” from midnight, said a statement from the president’s media unit.
It said the measures would target terrorism and would not limit freedom of expression.
“These will be limited to counter terrorism regulations. This is being done to allow the police and the three forces to ensure public security,” the statement said. 
The government also declared Tuesday as a national day of mourning. 
According to the statement, Sirisena will seek international assistance to combat terrorism in the island nation. The intelligence unit has pointed out support of international terror groups behind the local terrorists, suspected of plotting the deadly Easter blasts.
Around 290 people, including six Indians, were killed in the blasts that left more than 500 others injured, police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera said.
24 persons arrested 
Seven suicide bombers believed to be members of an Islamist extremist group carried out a series of devastating blasts that tore through churches and luxury hotels in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday, authorities said on Monday.
Though no group has claimed responsibility for the attacks, police have so far arrested 24 people - mostly members of a same group- in connection with the blasts.
Government’s spokesman Rajitha Senaratne said local Islamist extremist group called the National Tawheed Jamath (NTJ) is suspected of plotting the blasts. “All suicide bombers involved in the blasts are believed to be Sri Lankan nationals,” said Senaratne, who is also the Health Minister.
Speaking at a press conference here, Senaratne said the government was investigating whether the group had “international support”. “There may be international links to them,” he added.
“A total of seven suicide bombers had carried out these explosions,” the government analyst’s department said.
Health Minister Senaratne said the Chief of National Intelligence had warned the Inspector General of Police (IGP) regarding the probable attacks before April 11.
“On April 4, international intelligence agencies had warned of these attacks. The IGP was informed on April 9,” he said.
He demanded resignation of police chief Pujith Jayasundera in view of the major security lapse.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said that an investigation must be launched as to why intelligence reports of the attack was not taken seriously.
Meanwhile, as many as 87 bomb detonators were found on Monday at the Central Colombo bus station in Pettah area. The police initially found 12 bomb detonators scattered on the ground. A further search revealed 75 more, a police statement said.
A safe house where the bombers had lived for nearly three months leading to the attacks was found in the south of Colombo suburb of Panadura.
Sri Lanka Air Force said it found an improvised explosives device along a road leading to the departure terminal at the Colombo international airport Sunday night and safely defused it.
Sri Lanka Monday ordered a new night-time curfew following the multiple attacks.

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