Sat, May 04, 2019 - Page 5 News List

Colombo warns of more terror attacks

EASTER BOMBING:The Catholic Church called off the resumption of Sunday services and postponed school indefinitely as the Sri Lankan capital stepped up security

AFP, COLOMBO

Sri Lankan Muslims attend Friday prayers in a mosque in Colombo yesterday.

Photo: AP

Muslim extremists in Sri Lanka are believed to be planning attacks on bridges in Colombo, authorities said, as they that warned that several conspirators in the Easter Sunday bombings that killed 257 people are still at large.

Police confirmed they had instructed stations around Colombo to deploy additional officers and asked the navy to deploy more vessels on rivers, following leaks of police intelligence reports warning bridges into the capital were at risk of attack.

The Sri Lankan military has also set up a special command center to coordinate operations against Islamic militants, while the army said more troops have been deployed for search operations.

Additional troops conducted searches overnight and seized explosives and weapons from several locations, although these were from criminal groups and not militants, official sources said.

“Extensive cordon and search operations of the army and sister services across the country, with assistance of the police, are continuing in search of terrorists, hideouts, explosives, weapons and other warlike items... with the deployment of more and more troops as required,” the army said in a statement.

Authorities had information about a small group of radicals who may be trying to stage more strikes, said Sri Lankan Minister of Health and government spokesman Rajitha Senaratne.

Senaratne added that the crackdown on extremists after the Easter bombings had been largely successful.

“You can’t say the threat is over, but the situation is well under control... better than what we expected,” he said.

However, the government was also still on the hunt for “four terrorists” involved in the Easter attacks who were still at large, Senaratne said in an interview on Thursday evening.

The Catholic Church on Thursday announced that it had called off the resumption of Sunday services following information of a “specific threat” against two of their locations just outside the capital.

Catholic schools which were due to reopen after an extended Easter holiday have been put off indefinitely.

Public schools are due to reopen on Monday under tight security.

Sri Lankan authorities have admitted that there was a failure to act on advance intelligence warnings of the deadly Easter Sunday attacks against churches and luxury hotels.

Senaratne said that the nation’s minority Muslim community had helped authorities root out extremists in the weeks since.

“Everyone is giving information. They come forward to give a lot of information,” he said.

Sri Lanka was also receiving international help, with foreign intelligence services working alongside their local counterparts, he added.

“We have already received foreign assistance from the US, UK and from India. There are other countries also which have offered intelligence services,” he said.

Soon after the attacks, Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena said he believed there were 140 Islamic State-inspired militants in Sri Lanka and he had ordered security forces to track them down.

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