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Morocco Shares Sensitive Intelligence with Sri Lanka and India on Terror Attack

Sri Lankan authorities have talked about "foreign links" of the perpetrators and have said that "foreign agencies" have shared useful information with them

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Sri Lankan police clear the area while Special Task Force Bomb Squad officers inspect the site of an exploded van near a church that was attacked yesterday in Colombo, April 22, 2019. VOA

Morocco shared sensitive intelligence with Sri Lanka that helped Colombo identify the nine bombers and their handlers in the Islamic State, informed sources have indicated. The information was also shared with India as New Delhi and Morocco have a strong counter-terror cooperation.

This was done within 48 hours of the Easter Sunday attacks that killed nearly 360 people in the island nation. The Islamic State on Tuesday claimed responsibility for the horrific bombings, which also killed 10 Indians, with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe warning that the Indian Embassy was also a “possible target”.

Sri Lankan authorities have talked about “foreign links” of the perpetrators and have said that “foreign agencies” have shared useful information with them. Morocco, a North African country that follows a moderate strand of Islam, has one of the successful records of counter-terrorism and de-radicalization in the Islamic world.

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People who live near the church that was attacked yesterday, leave their houses as the military try to defuse a suspected van before it exploded in Colombo, Sri Lanka, April 22, 2019. VOA

In an interview in October, Abdelhak Khiame, Head of Morocco’s Central Bureau of Legal Investigation (BCIJ), said Moroccan security services dismantled “183 terrorist cells” in the country that were in the various stages of planning “361 devastating terrorist projects” in the kingdom.

More than 3,000 people, including 292 individuals with previous criminal record, have been arrested by Moroccan authorities over the past decade. India and Morocco have a strong and multi-dimensional agreement on counter-terrorism cooperation.

During a visit to New Delhi last year. Moroccan Justice Minister Mohamed Auajjar had said in an interview to the Economic Times that “Morocco has a well-established school of counter-terrorism, which is globally recognised. We have counter-terror cooperation including bilateral legal arrangements with major countries to fight terror. Given the expansion in ties with India and mutual interest, we decided to sign these treaties with Delhi, taking our counter-terror partnership to the next level”.

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Sri Lankan military officials stand guard in front of the St. Anthony’s Shrine, Kochchikade church after an explosion in Colombo, Sri Lanka, April 21, 2019. VOA

The Minister further said, echoing the views of King Mohammed VI. that Islam was against terrorism and “a wrong interpretation of jihad that is being propagated, instead of a jihad against poverty”.

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The Minister said “Morocco’s de-radicalization initiatives have been lauded by the international community. We pursue a multi-dimensional counter-terror strategy that has three distinct stands: intelligence gathering, socio-economic reforms, and reform of religious schools”.

Morocco has shared important intelligence and counter-terrorism information in the past with “friendly countries” like France, Spain and Belgium and with its growing ties with India there have been 10 ministerial visits in the past year – there is enhanced cooperation on this front between New Delhi and Rabat. (IANS)

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Sri Lanka to Reduce Airline Charges to Help Tourism Industry

The government currently predicts $3.7 billion in revenue from tourism this year, down from an initial forecast of $5 billion

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Buddhist monks take part in a prayer ceremony at a buddhist temple for the victims, three days after a string of suicide bomb attacks on churches and luxury hotels across the island on Easter, in Colombo, Sri Lanka, April 24, 2019. VOA

Sri Lanka’s government announced Tuesday it will reduce ground handling charges for airlines and slash aviation fuel prices and embarkation fees to help the country’s vital tourism industry recover after Easter suicide bombings killed more than 250 people.

Tourism Minister John Amaratunga said the decision will lead to an increase in flights to Sri Lanka and a reduction in ticket prices, which will attract more tourists to the Indian Ocean island nation, famed for its pristine beaches.

Seven suicide bombers from a local Muslim group, National Thowheed Jammath, attacked three churches and three luxury hotels on April 21, killing 258 people, including 45 foreigners mainly from China, India, the U.S. and Britain. Tourist arrivals declined 57% in June from a year earlier, dealing a severe blow to the tourism industry, the country’s third-largest foreign currency earner after remittances from overseas workers and textile and garment exports.

sri lanka, tourism
Kandy Temple of the Tooth in Sri Lanka. Wikimedia Commons

The cuts in charges and fees will be in place for six months, said Johanne Jayaratne, head of the government’s tourism development agency. About 2.3 million tourists visited Sri Lanka in 2018, when 29 airlines offered 300 flights per week. After the April 21 attacks, 41 fights per week were canceled, amounting to a loss of 8,000 passenger seats. Several airlines have reinstated their normal schedules since then, but others have not.

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Dimuthu Tennakoon, chairman of the Board of Airline Representatives, said the government decision will encourage airlines to increase their capacity and offer attractive fares.
“That will definitely happen with this reduction because fuel and ground handling contribute a significant percentage of the total cost element of any airline,” he said.

Tourism accounts for 4.9% of Sri Lanka’s GDP. Around half a million Sri Lankans depend directly on tourism and 2 million indirectly. The government currently predicts $3.7 billion in revenue from tourism this year, down from an initial forecast of $5 billion. (VOA)