International

Sri Lanka expels 200 Islamic clerics

COLOMBO, May 5 (Agencies) | Publish Date: 5/5/2019 12:12:47 PM IST

Sri Lanka has expelled over 600 foreign nationals, including around 200 Islamic clerics, since the Easter suicide bombings blamed on a local terror group, a minister told AFP Sunday.

Home Affairs Minister Vajira Abeywardena said the clerics had entered the country legally, but amid a security crackdown after the attacks were found to have overstayed their visas, for which fines were imposed and they were expelled from the island.

“Considering the current situation in the country, we have reviewed the visas system and took a decision to tighten visa restrictions for religious teachers,” Abeywardena said.

“Out of those who were sent out, about 200 were Islamic preachers.”

The Easter Sunday bombings that killed 257 people and wounded nearly 500 were led by a local cleric who is known to have travelled to India and had made contact with terrorists there.

The minister did not give the nationalities of those who have been expelled, but police have said many foreigners who have overstayed their visas since the Easter attacks were from Bangladesh, India, Maldives and Pakistan.

“There are religious institutions which have been getting down foreign preachers for decades,” Abeywardena said. “We have no issues with them, but there are some which mushroomed recently. We will pay more attention to them.”

The minister said the government was overhauling the country’s visa policy following fears that foreign clerics could radicalise locals for a repeat of the April 21 suicide bombings, which targeted three Christian churches and three luxury hotels.

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