Sri Lanka expels 200 Muslim clerics after Easter bombings

May, 2019
Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka has expelled 200 Muslim clerics after the suicide bombings that killed hundreds on Easter Sunday.

With churches closed again on May 5 amid the heightened security since Islamist bombers struck services and three luxury hotels, a minister said that 600 foreign nationals who had overstayed their visas had been expelled. Among them were 200 Muslim clerics. The authorities are still investigating the local group behind the bombings which forged ties with the Islamic State before the attacks.

“We have reviewed the visas system and took a decision to tighten visa restrictions for religious teachers,” the home affairs minister, Vajira Abeywardena, told the AFP news agency.

The death toll from the attack has reached 257, with more than 500 wounded. The dead included eight Britons as well as other foreign tourists. The investigation has uncovered evidence that the ringleader, the radical cleric Zahran Hashim, travelled to India and made contact with militants there. It has been reported that at least one of the bombers may have travelled to join Isis in Iraq and Syria.

Concern that extremists from abroad radicalised and trained the bombers is likely to have prompted the expulsion of clerics. Mr Abeywardena said that they had been fined for overstaying visas before being deported. He did not give their nationalities but confirmed that visa policy for foreign religious figures would be overhauled.

A state of emergency has been in place since the attacks and a night-time curfew was imposed yesterday in the town of Negombo, the site of one of the attacks, after a fresh outbreak of violence. Social media have been blocked.

A few hundred additional troops and police were deployed yesterday in order to contain the violence, and police reported today that an investigation was already underway.

The curfew was lifted this morning, but the head of Sri Lanka’s Catholic church appealed for calm.

“I appeal to all Christians, Buddhists and Muslims to be patient, show restraint and ensure the peace we maintained after the Easter bombings,” Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith said.

Source: The Times