A Sri Lankan worker pushes his hand cart as he leaves after delivering goods in a whole sale market in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Tuesday, April 30, 2019. Sri Lanka is limping back to normalcy after the devastating bomb attacks on Easter Sunday that killed more than 250 people and wounded hundreds more. People and vehicles are slowly coming back on the road and shops are open but traders say that their business remain drastically low. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)

Sri Lanka lifts social media ban imposed after Easter blasts

The government wanted to curb the spread of misinformation in the wake of the April 21 bombings at churches

Sri Lanka on Tuesday lifted a social media ban that was imposed after the Islamic State-claimed Easter bombings, a sign of security easing even as a Cabinet minister said he and others had received intelligence that they could be targeted by the same group in possible new attacks.

President Maithripala Sirisena ended the blocking of Facebook, WhatsApp, YouTube and other popular sites, but asked the public to “act in a responsible manner” on social media, according to a government statement.

The government had said it was seeking to curb the spread of misinformation when it blocked social media in the wake of the April 21 bombings at churches and luxury hotels that killed 253 people.

Sri Lankan officials have warned that suspects linked to the bombings are still at large, and on Tuesday, Sri Lanka’s health minister, Rajitha Senarathna, said he and seven other government ministers had been identified by intelligence officials as targets of possible additional suicide attacks this week, by the same Islamic State-linked group of Sri Lankan militants.

Senarathna said he stayed at home Sunday and Monday upon the officials’ request. He declined to provide additional information about the source or type of intelligence.

At the same time, some of Sri Lanka’s South Asian neighbours investigated possible activities in their countries inspired by the Easter attack.

READ MORE: Sri Lanka invokes war-time military powers after nearly 300 killed in Easter attacks

READ MORE: Death toll lowered to 253, Sri Lanka braces for more attacks

In India, the country’s National Investigative Agency said it had arrested a 29-year-old Indian man who identified himself as a follower of Mohammed Zahran, the Sri Lankan militant who officials say led the Easter attacks.

Investigators said in a statement late Monday that Riyas A., also known as Riyas Aboobacker, was plotting a similar suicide attack in the southern Indian state of Kerala. Three other people were brought in for questioning about suspected links to IS, according to the statement.

During a search of their homes, digital devices including mobile phones, SIM cards, memory cards, pen drives, diaries with handwritten notes in Arabic and Malayalam and untitled DVDs and CDs with religious speeches were seized, the statement said. The digital material was being forensically examined.

Investigators did not provide any details about Aboobacker’s alleged plot but said he admitted during questioning that he had followed Zahran’s vitriolic online speeches and videos for more than a year.

Authorities initially blamed the Easter attacks on Zahran and his followers. Then the Islamic State group on April 23 released images of Zahran and others pledging their loyalty to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the group’s shadowy leader.

In a video released Monday, a man said to be al-Baghdadi praised the suicide bombings in Sri Lanka, calling them “part of the revenge” that awaits the West. It was al-Baghdadi’s first filmed appearance in nearly five years.

Authorities in Bangladesh on Tuesday were investigating the Islamic State group’s claim of responsibility for an explosion in the capital that injured three police officers.

Police said a “very powerful” crude bomb thrown by unidentified assailants at a shopping complex in Dhaka late Monday injured two traffic officers and a community police officer.

According to global terrorism monitor SITE Intelligence, IS claimed the attack on “apostate policemen” without producing evidence.

Meanwhile, the Catholic Church’s top official in Sri Lanka said the government’s ban on the niqab, a black veil made of thin fabric, often with a small opening for a Muslim woman to see through, was a good security step, but didn’t go far enough to protect the faithful from another attack.

Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, the archbishop of Colombo, has been a vocal critic of the government’s apparent failure to share near-specific intelligence on the Easter plot and some of the suspects involved.

Ranjith said Tuesday that reports from Negombo, where around 100 people were killed on Easter Sunday in a bombing at St. Sebastian’s Church, indicated that Sirisena’s pledge to have Sri Lankan security forces check every household in the country wasn’t being upheld.

“We are still not satisfied,” Ranjith said. “There is a fear among the people that this is only a camouflage, just hoodwinking everybody.”

READ MORE: Sri Lanka militants set off bombs during raid, killing 15

___

Associated Press writers Ashok Sharma in New Delhi and Julhas Alam in Dhaka, Bangladesh, contributed to this report.

Bharatha Mallawarachi And Krishan Francis, The Associated Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Pandemic poses perfect time for makeover of historic Trail landmark

The Colombo Lodge has had many updates to the exterior and interior since it first opened in 1927

COVID-19 offers unique opportunity to make communities safer

Letter to the Editor from Crime Stoppers/Bolo Program

Rossland Beer Company outlines its expansion plans

New seating area for live bands and washroom some of new ammenities with expansion

Pandemic will bring long-lasting changes to Canada

Column by Richard Cannings, South Okanagan-West Kootenay MP

Daisy campaign raises $16,520 for cancer care in Trail

Money given to health foundation for end-0f-life care at KBRH

B.C. records no new COVID-19 deaths for the first time in weeks

Good news comes despite 11 new test-positive cases in B.C. in the past 24 hours

Fraser Valley driver featured on ‘Highway Thru Hell’ TV show dies

Monkhouse died Sunday night of a heartattack, Jamie Davis towing confirmed

B.C. visitor centres get help with COVID-19 prevention measures

Destination B.C. gearing up for local, in-province tourism

36 soldiers test positive for COVID-19 after working in Ontario, Quebec care homes

Nearly 1,700 military members are working in long-term care homes overwhelmed by COVID-19

B.C. poison control sees spike in adults, children accidentally ingesting hand sanitizer

Hand sanitizer sales and usage have gone up sharply amid COVID-19 pandemic

B.C. man with Alberta plates gets car keyed and aggressive note

Some out-of-province people are finding hostile reception due to COVID-19 worries

B.C. drive-in theatre appeals COVID-19 concession rules, 50-car limit

With 50 cars and the removal of concession sales, drive-in owner says theatre might have to close

COVID-19: B.C. grants aim to stabilize sexual assault recovery programs

$10 million fund not yet ready to take applications

Most Read