In tearful ceremony, Sri Lanka Catholics mark one month since bombings

Weeping Sri Lankan Catholics lit candles and prayed in a memorial service outside a bombed church on Tuesday, one month after Easter bombings by Islamist militants killed more than 250 people.

The April 21 attacks, claimed by militant group Islamic State, targeted three churches and three luxury hotels, shocking the island and shattering a decade of relative peace after the end of a 25-year civil war.

Hundreds of worshippers, including survivors and relatives of the victims, gathered outside St. Anthony’s Shrine, a Catholic church in the capital, Colombo, for the ceremony.

“I did not want to come here,” said Gloria, one of those attending, as she wiped away tears.

“But we came to remember our daddy who left us,” added the 17-year-old, who was accompanied by her mother and 14-year-old sister, Sophia.

Gloria, who declined to give her surname, said she lost consciousness during the attack, and opened her eyes to see her sister crawling towards her and her father bleeding.

The navy is repairing the white-painted church, which is covered in scaffolding, and police with sniffer dogs patrolled the area.

Some Christian schools also re-opened on Tuesday amid tight security. The city’s archbishop had complained about insufficient security around churches, and many parents have kept their children at home for fears of renewed attacks.

Authorities say the threat of more Islamist militant attacks has been contained and that security services have dismantled most of the network linked to the Easter Sunday bombings. (Courtesy Reuters)

Tycoon touched by sympathy after loss of three children in Sri Lanka bombings

Danish billionaire Anders Holch Povlsen and his wife Anne have thanked the people of Scotland for their “words of comfort” after three of their four children died in the Sri Lanka attacks.

The couple are thought to be Scotland’s largest landowners.

Their children Alfred, five, Agnes, 12 and Alma, 15, were among more than 250 people killed in the bombing attacks on churches and hotels in April.

The couple said the messages they had received had touched their hearts.

Their children died when Islamist extremists targeted the hotel they were staying in, the Shangri La in Colombo, during the attacks on Easter Sunday. Churches and other hotels were also targeted.

In full page adverts, taken out in The Scotsman and Press and Journal newspapers, Mr and Mrs Povlsen said: “We extend our heartfelt gratitude for the condolences, sympathy and many warming thoughts we have received following the tragic loss of our three beloved and beautiful children, Alfred, Agnes and Alma.

“The Scottish Highlands has granted us abiding, special memories for our family.

“It is for this reason that many of the words of comfort have fortified us and touched our hearts.”

The couple said that their thoughts and condolences also went to the many other innocent families who lost loved ones in the tragedy in Sri Lanka.

They added: “In the immense sadness, we are genuinely grateful that we remain united with our daughter, Astrid.

“The loving memory of our three children, their wonderful spirit and souls will always be in our hearts.”

Mr Holch Povlsen, who is the biggest single shareholder in the clothing giant Asos and also owns the international clothing chain Bestseller, is said to own more than 220,000 acres across the Highlands, including Aldourie Castle. (Courtesy BBC)

IS fighters dispersing around the world

By Easwaran Rutnam

The Easter Sunday attacks in Sri Lanka put the spotlight back on the Islamic State (IS) and its global operations, with attention being drawn to its operations in South Asia.

IS has been known to be fairly active in Afghanistan and Pakistan and has carried out several attacks in those countries. Now, IS seems to have made inroads into Sri Lanka through a local outfit, posing a serious threat to both Sri Lanka and its neighbours.

A global alert is now in place over fears the IS will use local groups to carry out attacks after losing ground in Syria.

India is among the countries where security has been beefed up, with suspects being arrested after the Easter Sunday bombings in Sri Lanka.

“I would say the IS indeed poses a direct threat to South Asia, not only in Sri Lanka, but more clearly in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Ideology does not operate in a vacuum and is inextricably linked to the radicalisation of Muslims in South Asia. Moreover, identity politics play a significant role in the region and have pushed different groups toward political violence,” The Soufan Centre senior fellow and Rand Corp adjunct senior political scientist Colin P. Clarke told The Sunday Morning.

Colin P. Clarke

Clarke has studied the Islamic State (IS) very closely. He is also the author of the book “After the Caliphate” in which he cautions that IS could become even more dangerous and challenging for counterterrorism forces, as its splinter groups threaten renewed and heightened violence across the globe.

Indefinite links of IS

“IS is in transition. As I argue in my book ‘After the Caliphate’, IS is moving from centralised to decentralised, and its surviving fighters are dispersing throughout the globe, likely joining affiliate and franchise groups in regions plagued by instability and civil war,” Clarke told The Sunday Morning.

An Israeli political scientist, International Institute for Counter-Terrorism senior research scholar, and Institute for Policy and Strategy senior research fellow Dr. Ely Karmon told The Sunday Morning that it was still not clear if IS was directly involved in the attacks on Sri Lanka.

However, he noted that National Thowheed Jamath (NTJ) was known to have had some links with groups in the region, including those in Tamil Nadu.

On 29 April, IS released a rare video in which its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi made his first appearance in nearly five years. In the only audio portion of the video, a short footage depicts the Sri Lanka attackers pledging allegiance to IS and scenes of the aftermath of the attacks.

Al-Baghdadi’s voice said: “You brothers in Sri Lanka have pleased the monotheists by their commando operations that unsettled the crusaders (including some Americans and Europeans) in their Easter celebration to avenge their brothers in Baghuz.” He highlighted the “high number of casualties from among the crusaders”.

“The comment on Sri Lanka is not in the original video. This was added later as audio. So this shows the IS leader was not aware of the attacks and added it only later. We still don’t know if IS was directly involved in these attacks. They may claim responsibility, but since nobody did and since the bombers had pledged support to IS, maybe IS made use of the opportunity and said it was them,” Karmon noted.

Karmon

Karmon, however, noted that investigators will most likely see who was involved in preparing the bombs for the suicide attacks in Sri Lanka. He said preparing a bomb takes a lot of expertise and this could not have been done by an ordinary man without sufficient training.

“Was there a Sri Lankan expert involved or did IS have a hand in it? This will be a question the authorities will need to find answers to,” Karmon said.

Despite being on the back foot in Syria, IS has managed to collect funds from around the world and some of that money seemed to have reached the bombers in Sri Lanka.

Clarke noted that IS has amassed hundreds of millions of dollars through extortion, smuggling of oil and oil-related products, bank robbery, taxation, and sale of antiques. IS has since invested some of this money in front companies and legal businesses throughout the region in order to continue to have access to money for the foreseeable future.

While there is a call for global superpowers to work together to defeat IS, Clarke said he does not think there is a chance of the US, Russia, and China ever working closely together.

Dismissed warnings

Experts said that only Sri Lanka can be blamed for the Easter Sunday attacks as they ignored advanced warnings.

“There were discoveries and explosives; there were reports that intelligence information had been shared with Sri Lankan authorities, but we did not see much being done about it. I think this was criminal negligence,” Karmon said.

He said that it was now openly known that India had provided some crucial information to Sri Lanka ahead of the attacks, about which nothing was done. He also said that a few Sri Lankans had been known to have travelled to Syria and returned, yet they were not investigated.

Karmon said that the Sri Lankan Christian community was a soft target as they had no issues with the Muslims.

“In the past, the issue has always been between the Buddhists and Muslims. So the Christians never expected this kind of an attack on them,” he said.

The attacks saw several countries alerting their citizens of a threat of more attacks, resulting in most of them leaving the country.

The US, the UK, and Australia were among the countries which advised its citizens to avoid non-essential travel to Sri Lanka while family members of employees of some of the diplomatic missions were also urged to leave the country.

Dr Michelle Brooks, an expert in Counter Terrorism said that the Ministry of Defence and Police were not ready to accept that another war could happen.

Michelle Brooks

“However there’s no point now in the blame game. Now it is important that all those facilitating this armed organised violence in Sri Lanka be they politicians or wealth businessmen, be prevented from continuing and be taken into custody. This organised terrorist group is determined and looking at the cache of weapons found they have many more attacks with varied targets planned,” she told The Sunday Morning.

She also said that the activities of the armed forces and CID have been successful in slowing down the terrorists operations.

“This is good and we must build on that. It is likely that they are part of a radicalised Wahabbi group who are inspired by years of following Al Qaeda and are making use of the many manuals published by ISIS on how to terrorise and control massive areas of territory. They are concerned with the symbolism, iconography, statues and religious buildings that are not part of of their own niche area of Islam. Even mosques who are moderate and follow peaceful Islam will be attacked,” she said.

Brooks said that the country needs to be on a war footing and there must be no illusions that there are thousands in Sri Lanka now who follow this niche part of Islamist ideology and it will take the whole nation to put this fire out. (Courtesy The Sunday Morning)

US warns threat in Sri Lanka still remains

EXCLUSIVE: The United States has warned that the terrorist threat in Sri Lanka still remains.

Nancy VanHorn, the spokesperson at the US Embassy in Colombo told the Colombo Gazette that the US believes active members of the attack group that carried out the terror attacks on Easter Sunday may still be at large.

“As the (US) Ambassador has previously stated and as reflected in our travel advisory, the terrorist threat is ongoing,” the spokesperson said.

The United States Government continues to assist Sri Lankan authorities in the aftermath of the horrific attacks that occurred in the country on Easter Sunday.

At the request of the Sri Lankan Government, US experts are already working closely with their Sri Lankan partners on fulfilling short term, specific objectives related to the recent attacks and to bringing the perpetrators to justice. This cooperation does not indicate a larger, long term presence of US security teams in the country.

The US Ambassador to Sri Lanka Alaina Teplitz had said that the attacks are the work of a few individuals and not of an entire community.

The US Government said earlier that in realizing and applying improved safety mechanisms to protect Sri Lanka’s citizens from new threats, it is imperative that the Sri Lanka Government do so in ways that also protect rule of law and that do not infringe upon the human rights of individuals or groups, or limit their ability to worship, communicate and to live together in peace. (Colombo Gazette)

More details of Easter Sunday suicide bombers emerge

More details have emerged on the Easter Sunday suicide bombers with the Daily Mail releasing the first pictures to be made public of two brothers involved in the attacks.

Wealthy brothers Inshaf and Ilham Ibrahim calmly walked into the luxury Shangri-La and Cinnamon Grand hotels and detonated their vests as guests were eating breakfast.

Their attacks claimed the lives of at least 41 foreigners, including eight British holidaymakers – three of whom were children.

Hours later, as police raided their mansion in an exclusive neighbourhood of Colombo, Ilham’s pregnant wife Fatima blew herself up, killing her three children and three officers.

Inshaf (pictured far right at a business awards), 38, lived with his wife and their four children – an eight-year-old daughter and three boys aged six, four and two – in a £1.5million six-bed mansion on one of the most exclusive streets in Colombo

CCTV footage has revealed the moment one of the bomber brothers, Inshaf,  nervously shuffling back and forth before deciding to blow himself up at the Cinnamon Grand hotel.

The footage from a camera in the hotel’s packed Taprobane restaurant shows the bomber hovering just inches away from diners.

Wearing a light shirt, dark baseball cap and a large backpack, the attacker hesitates – shuffling from foot to foot before detonating his suicide vest at 9.12am.

According to the Daily Mail, Inshaf had reportedly checked into the hotel the previous night using a fake name and claiming to be on a business trip.

Earlier, footage revealed that his brother Ilham and an accomplice bomber took a lift to the restaurant of the five-star Shangri-La hotel before blowing themselves up.

Wearing backpacks, the two men appear to discuss their plans in the elevator on the second floor in the final moments before the Easter Sunday massacre.

The bombers then enter the Table One eatery almost unnoticed while hotel guests are having breakfast before he detonates his deadly weapon.

In a split second the plush restaurant becomes a scene of horror as the bomb explodes in a cloud of smoke and bright red flame.

The other brother Inshaf blew himself up at the Cinnamon Grand in the wave of almost simultaneous attacks on Sunday morning.

Ilham Ibrahim
Ilham Ibrahim

Another bomb tore through a restaurant at the nearby Kingsbury hotel while similar explosions devastated three churches.

Authorities investigating the attack, which has killed more than 300 people, have described the heavy backpacks worn by the suicide bombers as ‘crude devices made locally’.

Earlier chilling CCTV footage captured one of the suicide bombers patting a little girl on the head moments before he launched his attack at St Sebastian’s Church in Negombo.

The terrorist can be seen sauntering towards St Sebastian’s Church in Negombo while wearing a large backpack containing a ‘crude device made locally’ that was used to massacre Christian worshippers.

It is believed the clip shows the attacker touching the granddaughter of Dilip Fernando, who said: ‘At the end of the mass [my family] saw one young man go into the church in with a heavy bag. He touched my granddaughter’s head on the way past. It was the bomber.’

The Ibrahim brothers were at the centre of the little-known but highly organised Islamic State terror cell which detonated six bombs in hotels and churches across Sri Lanka.

But while the profile of suicide bombers tends to be of poverty-stricken men with criminal backgrounds, the brothers were the sons of millionaire spice trader Yoonus Ibrahim and were privately educated in Colombo.

The pair, who had six other brothers and three sisters, were widely considered to be moderate Muslims who did not hold extreme views.

Their pictures, taken from a UN database, were identified by a senior police source as well as their brother-in-law, Ashkhan Alawdeen, several neighbours and staff at Inshaf’s copper factory.

Inshaf, 38, lived with his wife and their four children – an eight-year-old daughter and three boys aged six, four and two – in a £1.5million six-bed mansion on one of the most exclusive streets in Colombo.

The house, which has its own gym and a fleet of high-end cars, is owned by Inshaf’s brother-in-law Mr Alawdeen, a jewellery trader.

Inshaf was a successful businessman and owned a copper factory thought to be where the suicide bombs were made.

He was described by relatives and employees as affluent, calm and devout.

The father-of-four told his wife that he was flying to Zambia on business on Friday, adding that she should ‘be strong’ before killing himself and multiple others.

Around 100 police officers raided the factory in Wellampitiya, on the outskirts of Colombo on Sunday night. They arrested nine staff, including the manager.

Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attacks on its news outlet as it emerged at least one suspect travelled Syria to join the terror group before returning. (Colombo Gazette)



Use of drones, unmanned aircraft banned following attacks

The use of drones and unmanned aircraft has been temporarily banned withing Sri Lankan airspace following the Easter Sunday attacks.

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said that the ban will be in effect until further notice.

The temporary ban follows the deadly suicide attacks in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday.

Emergency regulations have been enforced to arrest suspects linked to the terror network involved in the attacks.

The worshipper who blocked a bomber

The family of one victim who died in Sunday’s bomb blasts in Sri Lanka say his actions helped save lives. Ramesh Raju stopped a man with a backpack from entering the Zion church full of worshippers. If the attacker had entered there would have been many more casualties.

A large white poster hangs outside Chrishanthini Ramesh’s house in the town of Batticaloa on Sri Lanka’s east coast.

On the left is a photo of a man smiling into the camera. He’s wearing a grey shirt and has a moustache.

His name is Ramesh Raju. He was a father, a husband, a building contractor, and he was just 40 years old.

As we approach the sandy driveway to his home, groups of people are seated on plastic chairs.

Just as life is a shared experience among family and friends in these communities, so is death.

Relatives from far and wide have gathered here to pay their respects – some play nervously with their phones, others are crying.

One woman in a green sari is wailing uncontrollably.

As we make our way through the gathered throng, we are introduced to Chrishanthini and her two children Rukshika and Niruban, who are 14 and 12 respectively.

Chrishanthini is a Sunday school teacher at the Zion church, and last Sunday – like any other – she went to teach her class.

Her and Ramesh took their children to worship every week, and he came to join them for prayers.

After classes finished, Chrishantini and some of the children went outside to have snacks before the Easter service was to begin.

Ramesh was also in the courtyard when he spotted a man he didn’t recognise carrying a large backpack.

The man told him it contained a video camera as he had come to film worshippers inside.

“My husband sensed something was wrong, and informed him he’d need to get permission first.

“He then forced him to leave,” Chrishanthini told me.

As she headed into the church, which was packed with as many as 450 people on one of the most sacred days of the year, she heard a loud bang.

As panic ensued, some of the congregation scaled the walls by the church to survey the ground below for their loved ones.

Crowds ran in any direction they could, as some of the buildings caught fire.

Chrishanthini and her family escaped and rushed to the nearby hospitals to find Ramesh.

Hours later, they found his body.

He had died instantly, at the spot she’d last seen him.

The family were reunited once again, but for the very last time.

Ramesh was buried on Monday. Members of the local police were among those who turned out to pay their respects.

While his actions didn’t save him, they did save the lives of many others.

As I chatted to Chrishanthini she barely shed a tear, but then as she shared fond memories of her life partner whose life had been taken away, she broke down.

“I love my Jesus, I love my Jesus,” she cried, as tears streamed down her face.

For Chrishantini the pain of loss is all too familiar.

At 40, she has lived most of her live as an orphan, after both her parents were murdered in Sri Lanka’s bloody civil war.

“My mother was killed when I was very young, she had her throat cut,” she told me. “A few years later my father was also killed in suspicious circumstances,” she adds.

If that wasn’t enough pain, Chrishantini also tells me her aunt died in the boxing day Tsunami in 2004, which claimed more than two thousand lives in Batticaloa.

This scenic stretch of the country’s east coast has witnessed large scale tragedy on so many occasions, and it’s people like Chrishantini who live through the daily anguish.

Nothing can bring back her dear Ramesh, but his heroic actions – which spared other families pain – at least help comfort her own.

Over 5000 Army troops deployed as gazette takes effect

Over 5000 Army troops have been deployed around the counry as a gazette issued by President Maithripala Sirisena took effect today after it was approved by Parliament.

The gazette was issued following the deadly Easter Sunday attacks.

The Army media unit said that hundreds of Army officers and troops of other ranks have been deployed with the authority to search, detain or arrest without warrant any person on members of the armed forces.

The troops took up positions around the country on the instructions of the respective Commanders of Security Forces, General Officers Commanding and Brigade Commanders.

Security Force Headquarters – West (SFHQ-West) on the directions of Major General Sathyapriya Liyanage, Commander, Security Forces – West has deployed 37 Officers and 1783 other rankers in the general areas of Katuwapitiya, Malwana, Minuwangoda, Kohuwala, Kalubowila, Dehiwala, Mattakkuliya, Dematagoda, Panadura, Battaramulla, Rathmalana, Kesbewa, Hanwella, Puttalama, Wennappuwa, Dankotuwa, Koswatta, Bandaragama, Horana, Kegalle, Warakapola, Ratnapura, Kuruwita and Balangoda etc.

The troops will provide security to churches and religious places in Negombo, Colombo, Ratmalana, Dehiwala, Kolonnawa, Rajagiriya, Maharagama, Talangama, Chilaw, Marawila, Kalpitiya, Talawila, Eluwankulama, Dummalasooriya, Kurunegala, Kurana, Kuliyapitiya, Nikaweratiya, Potuhera, Polgahawela, Wariyapola, Galle, Hiniduma, Gintota, Hirimbura, Dewata, Weligama, Matara, Aturaliya, Akuressa, Kotapola, Horagoda, Balapitiya, Panapitiya, Godapitiya, Kapuwatta, Beruwala, Alutgama, Polkotuwa, Kalutara, Ingiriya, Gurugoda, Rambukkanagama, Kegalle, Rambukkana, Bulathkohupitiya, Warakapola, Yatiyantota, Dummaladeniya, Mawanella, Kotiyakumbura, Ruwanwella, Aheliyagoda, Balangoda, Kahawatta, Tunkama, Udawalawa, etc and also conduct foot patrols, vehicle patrols and static patrols in all major cities and suburbs.

The foot patrols cover railway stations, churches, temples, power stations, state buildings, hospitals, hotels, bus stands, television centres, oil tanks, water tanks, water purifying centres, highways, public markets, bridges, Police stations and all other vulnerable points in close coordination with sister services and the Police. In addition, all embassies and diplomatic missions have also been provided necessary security.

Meanwhile, Security Force Headquarters – East (SFHQ-E) has deployed 45 officers and 1136 other rankers in most central areas of the Eastern province on the directions of Major General Aruna Jayasekara, Commander, Security Forces – East (SF-E) in order to provide security to all types of important installations as specified above in the general areas of Trincomalee, Batticaloa, Kalladi, Punani, Vakarei, Taravikulam, Ampara, Akkaraipattu, Komari, Pottuvil, Vavunathivu, Manampitiya, Thirukkkovil, Mahaoya, Malwatta, Nilaweli, Thiriyaya, Dehiwatta, Kantale, Verugal, Kinniya, Morawewa, Muthur, Kalmunai, Pasikudah, and Thopur. Likewise, troops of all Divisions and Brigades have begun road blocks, sentry points, mobile patrols and static duties.

Similarly, 52 officers and 970 troops under the Security Force Headquarters – Wanni (SFHQ-W) on the guidelines given by Major General Kumudu Perera, Commander, Security Forces – Wanni (SF-W) have provided a comprehensive security blanket to important and populous areas in the Wanni region including Anuradhapura, Vavuniya, Mannar, Gajasinhapura, Kalladi, Manthottam, Pesalei, Kokeliya, Kanagarayamkulam, Nawakkulam, Echchankulam, Wellankulam, Nandankadal, Padaviya, Kachchanamaradamadu, Galkulama, Welioya, Helabawewa and Wediwattakallu.

Wanni troops are providing security to the Anuradhapura Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi, Ruwanweli Seya, Bishop Houses, Mosques, Kovils, Churches, etc and have begun mobile patrols, vehicle checks and static duties in the general areas of Anuradhapura, Vavuniya Thisawewa, Vijayapura, Kalettewa, Hidogama, Nelubewa, Nachchaduwa, Shrawasthipura, Puttalam Juction, Old bus station, Kekirawa, Thanthirimale, Galenbindunuwewa, Dunumadalawa, Nochchiyagama, Madu Junction, Omanthai, Periyathampanai, Poonthottam, Puliyankulam Junction, Kokeliya, Irappankulam, Ichchankulam, Nikawewa, Yakawewa, Halmillewa, Thalgahawewa, Nochchikulam, Marathodai, Thalgahawewa, etc. In addition, they are conducting vehicle checks throughout the day.

The Security Force Headquarters – Kilinochchi (SFHQ-KLN) on the instructions of Major General Vijitha Ravirpiya, Commander, Security Forces – Kilinochchi (SF-KLN) has deployed 10 Officers and 491 Other Rankers in the general areas of Kilinochchi town, Mankulam, Dharmapuram, Paranthan, Iranamadu, Poonakari, Mallavi, Thunukkai, Pooneryn, Verawil, Akkarayankulam, Aiyankulam and other areas under the 57, 65, 66 Divisions and Brigades.

Another 28 officers and 454 other rankers of the Security Force Headquarters – Jaffna (SFHQ-J), on the directions given by Major General Darshana Hettiarrachchi, Commander, Security Forces – Jaffna, have intensified security arrangements in the general areas of Jaffna, Kopay, Thelippalai, Alaweddi, Achchuweli, Muhamalai, Iyakachchi, Kodikamam, Keeramalai, Kankasanthrai, Araly, Kareinagar, Chavakachchai, Chunnakam, Navatkulim, Kaithady, Eluthumadduwal, Palai, Elephant Pass, Maruthankeni, Allarai, Vallai, Vidaththapalai, Ellankulam, Variththavillan and all other important areas.

In addition a number of sentry points, road blocks, vehicle checks, mobile patrols and static duty points are now in operation day and night with the participation of Officers and Other Ranks.

Meanwhile, the Security Force Headquarters – Mullaittivu (SFHQ-MLT), following instructions given by Major General Dushyantha Rajaguru, Commander, Security Forces – Mullaittivu (SF-MLT), have taken steps to beef up security around all Churches, Mosques, Kovils and other places of worship.

Mullaittivu troops also have begun to man sentry points, static points, road blocks and mobile patrols in Mullaittivu town, Alampil South, Uduppukulam, Kallapadu, Mulliyaweli, Kulamurippu, Puthumattalan, Nanthikadal, Udayarkattu, Kohombagashandiya, Kokilai, Vallaimadam and other specific areas.

Meanwhile, the Security Force Headquarters – Central (SFHQ-Cen) on the directions of Major General Laksiri Waduge, Commander, Security Forces – Central (SF-Cen) began their emergency duties in Kandy Badulla, Diyatalawa, Hatton, Passara, Nanuoya, Nuwaraeliya, Moneragala, Digana, Balagolla, Theldeniya, Atabage, Pallekele, Maberithenna, Mirahawatta, Magastota, Bandarawela, Kotabowa, Bibila, Umaoya, Wellawaya, Badalkumbura, Ampitiya, Thennekumbura, Peradeniya, Muruthalawa, Bogambara, Asgiriya, Galagedara, Nawalapitiya, Pussellawa, Galaha, Katugastota, Weerawila, Kataragama, Tangalle, Hambantota and other areas under the responsibility of 11 Division, 12 Division, 111 Brigade, 121 Brigade and all Units under the SFHQ-Cen.

Meanwhile, 53 Division Headquarters (Reserve Force) at Inamaluwa, Dambulla, Air Mobile Brigade and 533 Brigade separately deployed their troops in Embilipitiya, Matara, Puhulwella, Bandarawela town, Kahagolla, Diyatalawa, Haputale, Wellawaya, Kotaweheragala, Matale, Akurana, Katugastota, Marapana, Wattegama and several other areas to conduct mobile patrols, sentry points, road blocks and random checks.

Female among nine suicide bombers involved in attacks

A female was among nine suicide bombers involved in the Easter Sunday attacks, investigators have found.

The Criminal Investigations Department (CID) has identified eight of the bombers.

Meanwhile, Police Spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera said that investigations revealed that nine suicide bombers were involved in the Easter Sunday attacks and eight have been identified.

The bombers attacked three churches and three hotels while two other explosions occurred at an inn and a house. (Colombo Gazette)

Easter Sunday death toll goes beyond 350

The death toll from the deadly Easter Sunday attacks in Sri Lanka has gone beyond 350.

The Police said that as of this morning (Wednesday) the death toll had reached 359.

Suicide bombers attacked St. Anthony’s Shrine in Colombo, St. Sebastian’s in Negambo, Zion Church in Batticaloa, the Shangri-La, Cinnamon Grand, and Kingsbury hotels in Colombo on Sunday.

Hezbollah condemns “savage” attack in Sri Lanka

Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah has condemned the Easter Sunday bombings that hit Sri Lankan churches and luxury hotels, killing more than 290 people, The Times Of Israel reported.

“We add our voice to all of the voices that condemned this savage and inhumane terrorism, which is totally disconnected from human nature and morals and Semitic values,” he said in a televised speech.

Hezbollah is an Iran-backed terror group based in Lebanon.

Trump telephones Ranil, offers assistance

US President Donald Trump telephoned Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe today and offered US assistance following the deadly attacks on Easter Sunday.

Trump had also noted that the US will support efforts to defeat international terrorist networks, the Prime Minister’s office said.

 

INTERPOL to deploy team to Sri Lanka to support probe

INTERPOL is deploying a team to Sri Lanka to assist the national authorities investigating the series of bomb attacks at churches and hotels which left nearly 300 dead and some 500 injured.

Checks are already being made against the Organization’s Stolen and Lost Travel Documents and nominal databases in order to identify potential investigative leads and international connections.

Deployed at the request of the Sri Lankan authorities, the Incident Response Team (IRT) will include specialists with expertise in crime scene examination, explosives, counter-terrorism, disaster victim identification and analysis.

If required, additional expertise in digital forensics, biometrics, as well as photo and video analysis will also be added to the team on the ground.

“As the Sri Lankan authorities investigate these horrific attacks, INTERPOL will continue to provide whatever support is necessary,” said INTERPOL Secretary General Jürgen Stock.

“Information to help identify individuals linked to these attacks could come from anywhere in the world, which is where INTERPOL’s global network and databases can prove vital, especially for officers on the ground.

“The families and friends of the victims of these bombings, as with every terrorist attack, require and deserve the full support of the global law enforcement community,” concluded the INTERPOL Chief.

In addition to the IRT, support is also being provided through the 24-hour Command and Coordination Centre (CCC) at INTERPOL’s General Secretariat headquarters in Lyon, France, as well as in Singapore and Buenos Aires, Argentina.

To assist with the identification of foreign nationals among the victims, the CCC can also act as a liaison to the INTERPOL National Central Bureaus of the involved countries to ensure any data is exchanged as quickly as possible.

Three children of Asos billionaire killed in Sri Lanka attacks

Three children of the billionaire fashion tycoon behind Asos have been killed in the Sri Lanka terrorist attacks.

Anders Holch Povlsen is Denmark’s wealthiest man with a net worth of $7.9bn (£6.1bn), according to the business magazine Forbes, and is believed to be the largest landowner in Scotland after buying a string of historic estates.

He and his wife, Anne Storm Pedersen, hold an estimated 80,000 hectares (200,000 acres) of the Highlands, and plan to rewild the landscape to preserve it for future generations.

The bombings at churches and luxury hotels across Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday killed at least 290 people. An investigator said seven suicide bombers had taken part in the attacks.

Jesper Stubkier, the communications manager for Holch Povlsen’s wholesale clothing business, Bestseller, said: “I can confirm that three children have been killed. We have no further comment and we ask that the family’s privacy is respected at this time.”

The spokesman declined to comment on which of Holch Povlsen’s four children had died, or whether other members of the family had been visiting Sri Lanka.

Holch Povlsen is best known in the UK for being the largest shareholder in Asos. His 26.7% stake in the group, mostly built during a spell of share-buying between 2010 and 2012, is worth about £866m.

Though Asos’s stock market value has halved since March 2018, Povlsen has made a substantial profit from the investment, with his holding worth about double what he paid for it, according to calculations made by the Guardian.

Polvsen’s fortune includes his ownership of the Bestseller fashion business – which was founded by his parents, includes brands such as Vero Moda and Jack & Jones, and sold more than £40m of products to Asos last year. He took over the business when he was 28.

He also has a string of investments in land and property. The Povlsens have acquired five country sports estates between Ben Loyal and Eriboll, close to the village of Tongue in the Highlands, as well as several stalking estates further south such as Glenfeshie, the couple’s home in the Cairngorms. Many include luxury holiday and hunting lodges for rent.

Through one of his UK companies, Polvsen also owns Berkertex House, a commercial property on Oxford Street in London, which he acquired in 2014 for £105m.

He has also been touted as one of the tycoons who could cause the Shard to lose its title as the tallest skyscraper in western Europe. This year, Povlsen announced plans for a 320-metre (1,050ft) skyscraper, nicknamed Bestseller Tower, which is expected to be built in Brande, a town of 7,000 people in rural Jutland. (Courtesy The Guardian)

Army says Police did not share intelligence report

The Army says the Police did not share any intelligence report of a possible attack on churches and other locations.

Army Commander, Lieutenant General Mahesh Senanayake said that there was a lapse in intelligence sharing.

Senanayake said that the Army has sought an integrated system for intelligence sharing.

He said that the Army is also seeking authority to investigate and make arrests.

The Government also admitted today that intelligence information had been shared about a possible suicide attack in Colombo but the information had not been taken seriously by the Police.

Minister of Telecommunications, Foreign Employment and Sports Harin Fernando made public a warning letter received by the authorities, which circulated on social media earlier.

The Government had earlier said that the latter was fake.

However Fernando made the letter public on his twitter account saying some intelligence officers were aware of the incidence.

“Serious action need to be taken as to why this warning was ignored,” he said.

Meanwhile, Minister Mano Ganesan said that his Ministerial Security Division (MSD) officers had also been warned by their Division a week earlier, about two suspected suicide bombers in Colombo targeting politicians.

Over 300 people had been killed in the Easter Sunday attacks in Colombo, Negombo and Batticaloa. (Colombo Gazette)