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

Heavy rainfall warning

Rainfall expected to exceed 100 mm in Prince Rupert and North Coast regions

Province, feds, Wet’suwet’en announce progress in MOU talks

Community engagement process launched to implement northern B.C. First Nation’s rights and title

Dogs are matched with the person, not the person matched to the dog – Prince Rupert SPCA

Prince Rupert SPCA does their due diligence in adopting dogs to suitable human companions

Photo Gallery: Memorial totem pole raising in Prince Rupert

The memorial pole stands in memory of Prince Rupert carvers mother on Second Ave. West

Province, feds, Wet’suwet’en announce progress in MOU talks

External community engagement process launched to help implement Wet’suwet’en rights and title

‘Don’t kill my mom’: Ryan Reynolds calls on young British Columbians to be COVID-smart

‘Deadpool’ celebrity responds to premier’s call for social influence support

Unofficial holidays: here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Aug. 16 to 22

World Photography Day, Black Cat Appreciation Day and Rum Day all coming up this week

Captain Horvat’s OT marker lifts Canucks to 4-3 win over Blues

Vancouver takes 2-0 lead in best-of-7 NHL playoff series with St. Louis

Widow of slain Red Deer doctor thanks community for support ahead of vigil

Fellow doctors, members of the public will gather for a physically-distanced vigil in central Alberta

Protesters showcase massive old yellow cedar as Port Renfrew area forest blockade continues

9.5-foot-wide yellow cedar measured by Ancient Forest Alliance campaigners in Fairy Creek watershed

Taking dog feces and a jackhammer to neighbourhood dispute costs B.C. man $16,000

‘Pellegrin’s actions were motivated by malice …a vindictive, pointless, dangerous and unlawful act’

Racist stickers at Keremeos pub leaves group uneasy and angry

The ‘OK’ hand gesture is a known hate-symbol

VIDEO: World responds to B.C. girl after pandemic cancels birthday party

Dozens of cards and numerous packages were delivered to six-year-old Charlie Manning

Most Read