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Home Lead Story Sri Lanka Bans Women from Wearing Face Veils for Security Reasons

Sri Lanka Bans Women from Wearing Face Veils for Security Reasons

Reuters reports that the top body of Islamic scholars supports the measure on a short-term basis because of security concerns, but opposes legislation against burqas

Sri Lanka, still reeling from the impact of the deadly Easter Sunday explosions, has banned women from wearing face veils. President Maithripala Sirisena implemented the ban under an emergency law. The ban went into effect Monday.

Officials said the move will help security forces with the identification process as the country continues to search for people responsible for the Easter Sunday explosions that targeted churches and hotels.

Reuters reports that the top body of Islamic scholars supports the measure on a short-term basis because of security concerns, but opposes legislation against burqas.

In another development, Sri Lankan local media report that police have identified the woman and the girl who were pulled Saturday from rubble of a shootout between security forces and militants that killed fifteen people, including six children.

Officials say the pair are the wife and daughter of Zahran Hashim, the suspected mastermind behind the deadly Easter Sunday attacks on churches and luxury hotels that killed more than 250 people.

face veils
Sri Lankan Army soldiers lower the national flag as the sun sets on Sunday, in Colombo, Sri Lanka, April 28, 2019. VOA

The Daily Mirror newspaper says Hashim’s sister and brother-in-law identified the pair. Sunday Sri Lankan police entered the headquarters of the terrorist group believed to be behind the deadly Easter Sunday attacks.

A day after Colombo declared National Towheed Jamaath (NTJ) a terror group, armed police in the town of Kattankudy in eastern Sri Lanka entered the organization’s main mosque.

On Saturday, President Maithripala Sirisena formally outlawed two Islamist extremist groups suspected of carrying out the Easter attacks. Sirisena used his emergency powers to ban NTJ and another group, Jamathei Millathu Ibrahim (JMI).

Security officials said the NTJ was believed to have been the main group behind the Easter attacks. Officials said they were prohibited by law from banning the little known groups earlier due to the lack of firm evidence against them.

Catholic churches in Sri Lanka were shuttered Sunday in the aftermath of the attack. The faithful, however, were able to watch a televised broadcast of a Mass.

The terrorist group also says it was their men who blew themselves up in the clash with Sri Lankan security forces Saturday where Hashim’s wife and daughter were found. An IS statement said that “after exhausting their ammunition,” the men “detonated on them their explosive belts.”

In another development, Sri Lankan police say they arrested two “most wanted” suspects in connection with the Easter Sunday blasts. Police say the men were arrested in the central region of Nawaapitiya.

face veils
Security personnel are seen at the site of an overnight gunbattle between troops and suspected Islamist militants, on the east coast of Sri Lanka, in Kalmunai, April 27, 2019. VOA

Police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekara said officers found a cache of 150 gelignite sticks, an Islamic State uniform, steel pellets, a drone, a laptop computer, as well as a van thought to be used during the Easter attacks.

On Friday, thousands of Sri Lankan security personnel were deployed across the country to places of worship, as Muslims answered the call to prayer. Security forces combed the country, tracking down what they say are dozens of local militants with links to the Islamic State terror group.

Sri Lanka’s police chief Pujith Jayasundara resigned Friday because of the security failures around the attacks. A day earlier, Defense Secretary Hemasriri Fernando quit in the wake of the bombings, heeding calls from Sri Lanka’s president for his resignation. Sirisena had called on Fernando and Jayasundara to step down after he promised in a televised address to take stern action against officials who did not share with him the intelligence alerts that came from India days prior to the bombing of churches and luxury hotels.

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As the government faces an outpouring of public anger over the failure to heed the warnings, senior officials admit it has been a “major lapse.”

Reports say Indian intelligence agencies sent out several warnings to Sri Lanka, and that Indian security agencies had gathered details about the Islamic militant group suspected of carrying out the attacks. (VOA)

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