Police unearth 17 safe houses for bombers in Sri Lanka

A soldier walks past a damaged shop after a mob attack in Minuwangoda. An overnight curfew ensured there was no repeat of Monday’s violence against Muslims. (AFP)
Updated 16 May 2019

Police unearth 17 safe houses for bombers in Sri Lanka

  • Muslims welcome amendment to ruling on wearing abaya
  • The NTJ-run safe houses and seven terrorist training centers have been sealed

COLOMBO: National Thowheed Jamath (NTJ), which was responsible for the Easter Sunday bomb attacks, had been running 17 safe houses and seven training centers for the suicide bombers, Ruwan Gunasekera, a police spokesman, said on Wednesday.

He said NTJ, along with two other organizations, had been proscribed by an extraordinary government gazette notification issued in Colombo on a directive from Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena.

Gunasekera said the safe houses and training centers had been sealed. He said the discoveries were based on information provided by members of the public.

The Easter Sunday suicide bomb blasts killed more than 250 people and injured more than 500 people, while Monday’s riots against Muslims and their properties resulted in one person’s death and caused heavy damage to Muslims shops and workplaces.

Meanwhile, the government made an amendment to a ruling on women’s attire — for the abaya — saying that women could only show their face from the forehead to the lower chin when in public. Last week’s notification indicated that women should show their full face, from forehead to lower chin, without covering the ears.

Following the earlier notification, Western Province Gov. Azath Salley made a representation to the island’s president urging him to amend the rule to allow Muslim women to cover their ears in public. “I am very happy that we are successful in convincing the government about our culture,” Salley said.

Ismeth Fathima, principal of the China Fort Girls’ school, told Arab News that this was a welcome move and Muslim women preferred to wear this form of hijab and abaya, which is more modest than showing the ears.  

Monday’s violence in various parts of the island severely impacted daily life. The most affected town was Minuwangoda, 40 km from the capital. About 42 Muslim shops, including restaurants, were burnt down by hooligans in retaliation for the suicide bomb attacks on Easter Sunday.

Acting Defense Minister Ruwan Wijewardena, who visited Minuwangoda on Wednesday, told the media that it was a shock to see so many facilities vandalized by hooligans. “We will not allow this to recur,” the minister said. Those who were responsible would have to pay the price for it, he said. 

Abu Khalid, the owner of a jewelry shop that was burnt down, told Arab News that it was his sole investment. “It is my bread and butter, I am used to an affluent life and now I am a pauper,” he said.

Sheikh Sulaiman, imam of a neighboring mosque in Galloluwa, said that everyone was saying his mosque would be the next target. “I am afraid to sleep inside the mosque,” he said.

Minuwangoda is now heavily policed. Patrol cars are patrolling the township to provide confidence and security for Muslims.


Memorial service held for Floyd, officers in court

Updated 6 min 19 sec ago

Memorial service held for Floyd, officers in court

  • Al Sharpton: The width of the support and participation in the protests is something unlike we’ve ever seen before
  • Three of the four Minneapolis police officers who arrested Floyd on May 25 for allegedly passing a counterfeit bill were to make their first court appearance

MINNEAPOLIS: US civil rights activist Al Sharpton was to lead a memorial service on Thursday for George Floyd, the African-American man whose harrowing videotaped death while being arrested has unleashed sweeping nationwide protests for racial justice.
“The width of the support and participation in the protests is something unlike we’ve ever seen before,” Sharpton said on MSNBC ahead of the 1:00 p.m. Central Time (1800 GMT) service. “This is the time that we can make real change.”
Three of the four Minneapolis police officers who arrested Floyd on May 25 for allegedly passing a counterfeit bill were to make their first court appearance, meanwhile, to face charges of aiding and abetting his murder.
The fourth policeman, white officer Derek Chauvin, who was filmed kneeling on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes as he said “I can’t breathe,” has been charged with second-degree murder and appeared before a judge last week.
Democratic Congressman John Lewis, who marched with Martin Luther King Jr to fight segregation, echoed Sharpton’s hope that Floyd’s death and the protests could pave the way for “greater change.”
“This feels and looks so different,” the 80-year-old civil rights icon told “CBS This Morning.” “It is so much more massive and all inclusive.”
Lewis, who was brutally beaten on several occasions during the 1960s civil rights protests, condemned President Donald Trump’s threat to use military force against demonstrators.
“I think it would be a serious mistake on the part of President Trump to use the military to stop orderly, peaceful, nonviolent protests,” Lewis said. “You cannot stop, cannot stop the call of history.”
While condemning Floyd’s death, Trump has adopted a tough stance toward the protesters, saying they include many “bad people” and calling on governors to “dominate the streets.”
Trump has raised the possibility of invoking the Insurrection Act to deploy active duty troops to quell the protests but his own defense secretary, Mark Esper, said Wednesday that should only be a “last resort.”
And Esper’s predecessor as Pentagon chief, former general James Mattis, broke his silence since resigning from the administration to deliver a biting assessment of the president.
Mattis called Trump “the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people — does not even pretend to try.”
“Instead, he tries to divide us,” the decorated Marine Corps general said.
Trump snapped back on Twitter, calling Mattis “the world’s most overrated General.”

Opinion

This section contains relevant reference points, placed in (Opinion field)

Another Democratic congressman, Adam Schiff, the chief prosecutor at Trump’s impeachment by the House of Representatives earlier this year, drew a parallel between the US protests and Thursday’s 31st anniversary of the Chinese crackdown on students in Tiananmen Square.
“While we pause to remember the innocent lives lost and demand that the Chinese government reckon with its state-sanctioned violence, we must acknowledge that America’s moral authority to denounce these crimes relies upon our setting an example here at home,” Schiff said.
“But when our police attack peaceful protesters fighting for a more just society with tear gas, rubber bullets, and flash bang grenades, we not only violate American values, but we also we lose our credibility when advocating for human rights and democratic freedoms abroad,” he said.
New barriers were being erected outside the White House on Thursday as the protests for racial justice and police reform entered a 10th day.
Police used batons and chemical agents to clear protesters from Lafayette Park in front of the White House on Monday and have since expanded the perimeter around 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Floyd’s death has reignited long-felt anger over police killings of African-Americans and unleashed a nationwide wave of civil unrest unlike any seen in the US since King’s 1968 assassination.
The arrest of all four officers involved in Floyd’s death has been a demand of the tens of thousands of protesters who have marched in the streets of dozens of US cities, often defying curfews.
Floyd’s family, in a statement thanking protesters, called the arrests and new charges a “bittersweet moment” — and a “significant step forward on the road to justice.”
They urged Americans to continue to “raise their voices for change in peaceful ways.”
Protesters staged large in cities from New York to Los Angeles on Wednesday.
Some of the protests were marred by rioting and looting in the early days but they have been mostly peaceful since then.
Los Angeles and Washington delayed the start of their curfews by several hours Wednesday after looting and violence had subsided the previous night, while Seattle scrapped its curfew with immediate effect.
Several arrests were made in New York after groups of protesters continued to march in Manhattan and Brooklyn after the city’s 8:00 p.m. curfew had passed.
A large group also protested at the US Capitol in Washington beyond curfew.
Thousands took to the streets in Hollywood and downtown Los Angeles, where Mayor Eric Garcetti vowed to redirect $250 million toward black community health and education from budgets including the police department.