Gotabaya Rajapaksa, a former defense official revered by Sri Lanka’s ethnic majority for his role in ending a bloody civil war but feared by minorities for his brutal approach, declared victory Sunday in the nation’s presidential election. Rajapaksa, the campaign front-runner and former defense secretary under his brother, ex-President Mahinda Rajapaksa, pledged to restore security to the Indian Ocean island nation still recovering from ISIS-inspired attacks last Easter.
Sri Lankan police have raided the headquarters of a hardline Islamist group founded by the suspected ringleader behind the Easter suicide bombings of churches and hotels. It comes as a ban on face coverings is due to come into force on Monday. Armed police in the town of Kattankudy searched the headquarters of the National Thawheed Jammath (NTJ) and detained one man at the premises, a Reuters reporter at the scene said. On Saturday the government banned the NTJ under new emergency laws.
Sri Lankan officials revised the death toll from Easter Sunday bombings down by about 100 on Thursday, blaming the difficulty in identifying body parts at bomb scenes for the earlier inaccurate number. The new official figure was 253, down from an earlier 359, Deputy Defence Minister Ruwan Wijewardene said. Police issued names and photographs of four men and three women wanted in connection with the attacks, as bomb scares and security sweeps kept the country on edge.
The terrorist group ISIS has claimed responsibility for the bomb attacks on churches and hotels in Sri Lanka that killed at least 321 people on Easter Sunday, but provided no evidence.The news came on Tuesday as the Sri Lankan minister of defense Ruwan Wijewardene said the attacks were in retaliation for last month’s terrorist attack against Muslims in Christchurch, New Zealand, in which 50 people were killed. Sri Lanka has implemented an “emergency law” giving police powers to detain suspects without a warrant, and 40 people have now been arrested in connection to the attacks.
At least nine bombs tore through churches and hotels in three Sri Lankan cities on Easter Sunday. The death toll had risen to at least 290, with more than 500 others wounded, by Monday morning. Defense Minister Ruwan Wijewardene described the coordinated blasts as a terrorist attack by religious extremists. A Sri Lankan government official said the seven suicide bombers that attacked churches and hotels on Easter Sunday were from the domestic militant group known as National Thowfeek Jamaath, but that they likely had support from outside the country.
The Sri Lanka opposition accused the ruling party of using the Facebook data to crackdown on citizens, bringing the company into political tensions. The ousted Prime Minister and United National Party sent a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg asking the company to safeguard users from data being used ‘in ways which are legally prohibited.’
After two months of political instability, Sri Lanka reinstated ousted Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on Sunday. Wickremesinghe takes on the post of Prime ministership for the fifth time. Sri Lanka plunged into uncertainty after the president abruptly fired Wickremesinghe, citing differences over policy-making, and brought in former president Mahinda Rajapaksa for the post in a surprise move in October.
One person was killed on Sunday as Sri Lanka experienced a political crisis with the abrupt firing of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and replacement by ex-President Mahinda Rajapaksa. Sri Lanka President Maithripala Sirisena claimed the move was caused by the economic crisis and a plot to kill him. Sirisena on Saturday suspended the parliament till November 16 after sacked Prime Minister Wickremesinghe sought an emergency session to prove his majority.
Heavy monsoon rains, the worst since 2003, have caused landslides and floods in the south west region of Sri Lanka. Almost 200 people have perished in the floods and over 100 are still reported missing, it is reported that over 500,000 people’s lives are currently being affected by this disaster, the death toll is only expected to rise. The Sri Lankan government has urged other countries to offer help, with India sending food and necessary assistance.