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Sri Lanka bans drones, searches for suspects after mayhem

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Colombo, April 25, 2019-

A minor explosion occurred on Thursday in the Sri Lankan capital’s outskirts even as security forces continued a search for accomplices of suicide bombers who on Easter Sunday killed and injured hundreds.

The government also banned the use of all drones and unmanned aircraft within the Sri Lankan airspace with effect from Thursday and also kept its new visa-on-arrival programme, which was to be implemented from May 1, on hold due to the security situation in the island nation.

“Investigations have revealed foreign links to the attacks and we do not want this visa-on-arrival facility to be abused,” Minister of Tourism, Wildlife and Christian Religious Affairs John Amaratunga said.

Tourism was one of the worst hit industries following the deadly blasts on Sunday in three Sri Lankan cities, primarily in and around Colombo.

The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the deaths of 359 people and injuries to over 500 but Colombo has blamed a local Muslim group, the National Thowheed Jamath (NJT).

The Thursday explosion took place at around 9 a.m. in a garbage dump behind the Magistrate’s Court in Pugoda, 36 km from Colombo, reported Xinhua news agency.

After the blast, police have advised the general public not to panic, saying the security forces were conducting search operations in the area and also across the island nation, said the Daily Mirror.

In an indication that all was not well in Sri Lanka, Israel’s Counter-Terrorism Bureau raised the threat level to indicate a “high concrete” mark and advised travellers to leave the island and avoid visiting it in the near future.

The elevated alert level came after consultations with security and Foreign Ministry officers, CNN quoted the Counter-Terrorism Bureau as saying.

Although four days have passed since the bloodbath, Sri Lanka remains on the edge. Schools and colleges remain shut and a general sense of insecurity prevails.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe told CNN that some attackers responsible for the Easter Sunday bombings were being monitored by the intelligence services but there was not “sufficient” evidence to put them in custody before the attacks.

He reiterated that the attackers were middle- and upper-middle class and had been educated abroad. He added that the profile of the suspected bombers was “surprising”.

Police are holding the wealthy father of two of the suicide bombers on suspicion of aiding and abetting his sons to carry out Easter Sunday attacks.

Mohamed Yusuf Ibrahim, a spice moghul, was arrested on Sunday following attacks at hotels and churches. His adult sons, Imsath Ahmed Ibrahim and Ilham Ahmed Ibrahim, blew themselves up in two different attacks earlier that day, reported CNN.

Police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera said that officers Sri Lanka’s Criminal Investigation Department (CID) and Terrorism Investigation Department (TID) had raided five safe houses in the country.

More than 70 suspects have been taken into custody on a range of charges. Of those arrested, four suspects were female, and all are Muslims. None of them is a foreigner.

In raids carried out on Wednesday night, police said, 16 people were arrested at various locations, mostly near Colombo. Three shotguns and two walkie-talkies were seized.

The Easter Sunday killings were the bloodiest day in Sri Lanka since the end of the civil war a decade ago.  (Agency)

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