Sri Lanka Attacks: Relatives Of Key Suspect Zahran Hashim Killed

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)

 

Sri Lanka attacks: Relatives of key suspect Zahran Hashim killed

Sri Lankan army personnel stand guard at a checkpoint as they search people and their bags at a check point in Kattankudy near Batticaloa, Sri Lanka, 28 AprilImage copyright REUTERS
Image caption Searches have been carried out in Kattankudy

The father and two brothers of the alleged organiser of the Easter Sunday bombings in Sri Lanka, Zahran Hashim, were killed in a security forces operation on Friday, police say.

Hashim, who blew himself up at a hotel in Colombo, founded an Islamist group, the NTJ, which has now been banned.

Police have raided the group’s HQ in the eastern town of Kattankudy.

The Sri Lankan president has announced a ban on face coverings, aimed at Muslim women following the attacks.

The attacks targeted churches and hotels, killing at least 250 people.

Sunday church services were cancelled across the country as a precaution but worshippers in the capital gathered to pray outside St Anthony’s, which was badly damaged in the attacks.

How did Hashim’s relatives die?

Security forces raided a house in Sainthamaruthu, near Hashim’s hometown Kattankudy, on Friday.

Gunmen opened fire as troops moved in, police say, and three men set off explosives, killing themselves, six children and three women. Three other people died in gunfire.

The headquarters of the NTJ under police guardImage copyrightREUTERS
Image captionPolice sealed off the NTJ’s headquarters on Sunday

A close family relative confirmed for BBC News that Hashim’s father and two brothers died in the raid.

Police sources who spoke to Reuters news agency named the three men as Mohamed Hashim, and his sons Zainee Hashim and Rilwan Hashim.

All three had been seen in a video circulating on social media calling for all-out war against all non-believers, Reuters adds.

In Kattankudy itself, police searched the headquarters of the NTJ (National Thawheed Jamath), which Zahran Hashim had led.

Presentational grey line

‘Safe house’ discovered by chance

By Anbarasan Ethirajan, BBC News, Sainthamaruthu

GV of house that was raided
Image caption The safe house was discovered after local people alerted police

When I entered the house where the Islamists and their families were killed on Friday evening, the smell of death was unbearable.

A police officer at the site also said Zahran Hashim’s mother was also believed to be among the victims.

Security forces have been conducting raids across the country but this safe house was discovered by chance, when the suspicious house owner and local people alerted the police.

Every day, police are making arrests, seizing weapons, explosives and jihadist material suggesting the radicalisation process, however small it may be, has been happening over a period of time. If the security agencies had missed this, then it is a colossal failure.

The ongoing raids and discovery of weapons and material are gradually building up tensions among the communities. A hotel owner said she was worried because she was a Catholic. Muslims say they are nervous to visit Sinhala-majority areas. Some foreign governments have warned that there is a possibility of further attacks and if those happen, fragile ethnic relations could be further strained.

Presentational grey line

Announcing the ban on face coverings, which will begin on Monday, President Maithripala Sirisena said he was taking the emergency measure on national security grounds.

The announcement made no specific mention of the niqab and burka – worn by Muslim women – but instead said people’s faces should be fully visible so they could be identified.

What happened on Easter Sunday?

Sri Lanka has been on high alert since a co-ordinated wave of bombings last Sunday, which also wounded more than 500 people.

The bombings targeted churches that were packed full for the Easter holiday, as well as hotels popular with tourists.

As well as St Anthony’s Shrine, bombers struck churches in Negombo and the eastern city of Batticaloa, and hotels in the capital, Colombo.

Most of those killed were Sri Lankan, but dozens of foreign citizens were also among the dead.

Media caption‘This is Sri Lanka’: Fighting back with peace

While the authorities have blamed the NTJ for the attacks, they say they must have had help from a larger network.

The Islamic State group, which carried out mass attacks on civilians in Paris and other locations in recent years, has said it was involved, but has not given details.

How are the victims being remembered?

Christians in Sri Lanka prayed at home while the Archbishop of Colombo, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, held a televised Mass, attended by the president and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.

He called the attacks an “insult to humanity” in the service, broadcast from a chapel in his residence.

Media caption Sri Lankans pray and light candles, one week after a string of bombings by Islamist militants

“Today during this Mass we are paying attention to last Sunday’s tragedy and we try to understand it,” he said.

“We pray that in this country there will be peace and co-existence and understanding each other without division.”

Scores of people gathered for the public service outside St Anthony’s, where Buddhist monks joined Catholic priests in a show of solidarity with the Christian community.

Crowds of people watched the heavily-guarded church from behind a barricade, with some singing hymns and passing rosary beads through their hands.

Many lit candles and placed them in a makeshift memorial for the victims.

The church’s bells tolled at 08:45 (03:15 GMT) – the exact moment a bomber detonated his device one week ago.

The hands of its damaged clock tower are still stuck at that time.

Coordinated attacks in Sri Lanka kill more than 200 people

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

In pictures: Coordinated attacks in Sri Lanka kill more than 200 people

Updated 9:43 AM ET, Sun April 21, 2019

Relatives of a victim of a blast at St. Anthony’s Shrine, Kochchikade, react at the police mortuary in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on Sunday.

Dinuka Liyanawatte/Reuters

A series of bomb blasts struck luxury hotels and churches across Sri Lanka early Sunday. More than 200 people were killed and 560 injured in the coordinated attacks, which have put the entire country on lockdown.

The first wave of bombings struck at the heart of the country’s minority Christian community during busy Easter services at churches in the cities of Colombo, Negombo and Batticaloa.

Maldives: Will The Island Nation Be A Legal Democratic Government Or Military Rule

(This article is courtesy of the Saudi Gazette)

Nasheed allies with Gayoom to topple Maldives president

 
Former Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed speaks during a press conference in London in this file photo. — AFP
Former Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed speaks during a press conference in London in this file photo. — AFP

COLOMBO — Exiled Maldives opposition leader Mohamed Nasheed has said he is in talks with the former president, who repeatedly threw him in jail, to “legally topple” the current leader of the troubled honeymoon islands.

Nasheed became the first democratically elected president of the Maldives in 2008, but now lives in exile in London after he was jailed on terrorism charges that he says were politically motivated.

 

In the past he has accused Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who ruled the Maldives for 30 years and is still regarded as the power behind the throne, of being behind his downfall.

But on Tuesday he indicated he wanted to bury the hatchet with Gayoom, amid reports of a rift between the former strongman leader and his half-brother, current President Abdulla Yameen.

“How can you build a future if you always want to go back to live in the past,” Nasheed said in Colombo via a video link from London.

“Yameen’s days are numbered. He has lost the support of the people and the international community. We can restore democracy in the Maldives.”

Nasheed said he had forgiven Gayoom and was in talks with his faction of the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) “for a new political alignment.”

He did not disclose details, but said he had visited Colombo late last month to meet fellow dissidents and map out a strategy to “legally topple” Yameen.

He served repeated jail terms under Gayoom’s autocratic leadership before winning the country’s first democratic election in 2008.

There was no immediate comment from Gayoom, however, and diplomats in Colombo were cautious about the prospect of such an alliance.

“The opposition was expecting Gayoom to get a section of his party to withdraw support for Yameen late last month, but for some reason that did not happen,” said one western diplomatic source in Colombo, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“It is not easy for the opposition to organize any agitation inside the country because all their leaders are either in jail or in exile.”

An alliance between the 78-year-old Gayoom and Nasheed was unthinkable even a few months ago.

Gayoom who ruled the country for 30 straight years till 2008, was accused of engineering Nasheed’s downfall in 2012.

Nasheed said he was forced to step down following a mutiny by police and security forces after weeks of anti-government protests in the capital island Male.

The former president does not hold any office in the current administration, but is said to command the loyalty of a majority of the 33 PPM legislators in the 85-member majlis, or parliament.

But an intensifying crackdown on political dissent in the atoll nation of 340,000 people has dented its popular image as an upmarket holiday paradise.

Almost all key opposition leaders and a number of ruling party dissidents have either been jailed or gone into exile since Yameen took office after winning a controversial run-off election against Nasheed in 2013.

Last week police in the Maldives raided the offices of the Maldives Independent website hours after Al Jazeera aired a documentary accusing Yameen and his government of corruption.

The website’s editor had been quoted in the documentary.

In July, Gayoom’s daughter Dunya Maumoon quit as foreign minister saying she did not agree with a plan to bring back the death penalty after nearly seven decades.

Nasheed was jailed for 13 years in 2015 but granted prison leave earlier this year for medical treatment in London, where he secured political asylum.

A UN panel has ruled that his imprisonment was illegal and ordered the regime to pay him compensation.

The United States has said democracy is under threat in the strategically located archipelago, which sits on key international shipping lanes.

Yameen’s spokesman Ibrahim Hussain Shihab has said there are differences within the ruling party, but that these are not serious.

Asked on Tuesday whether Gayoom would help bring down his own half-brother, Nasheed replied: “Half brothers hitting at each other is Maldives politics.”