By Ranga Sirilal
COLOMBO (Reuters) – A gun battle between troops and suspected Islamist militants on Sri Lanka’s east coast left 15 lifeless, together with six youngsters, a army spokesman mentioned on Saturday, six days after suicide bombers killed greater than 250 folks on the island.
The shootout at a protected home erupted on Friday in Sainthamaruthu in Ampara district, to the south of the Sri Lankan city of Batticaloa, web site of one of many Easter Sunday blasts which have been claimed by Islamic State.
The federal government has mentioned that the assaults on three church buildings and 4 resorts, most of which have been within the capital Colombo, have been carried out by 9 well-educated Sri Lankans, eight of whom have been recognized.
A police spokesman mentioned three suspected suicide bombers have been among the many lifeless following Friday’s gun battle.
Authorities have warned there could possibly be extra assaults towards spiritual facilities following the bombings, which shattered the relative calm in Buddhist-majority Sri Lanka since a battle with mostly-Hindu ethnic Tamil separatists ended a decade in the past.
President Maithripala Sirisena and the federal government headed by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe have confronted criticism over the assaults about which there have been repeated warnings from India.
Each have mentioned intelligence was not shared with them, exposing rifts on the prime of the federal government and elevating questions on its capability to cope with the safety disaster.
Two sources instructed Reuters on Saturday that Sri Lanka’s police chief had refused to just accept Sirisena’s request to step down, in an extra embarrassment for the president.
The U.S. State Division, warning that terrorist teams have been persevering with to plot assaults, urged residents to rethink journey to Sri Lanka and ordered the departure of all school-age members of the family of U.S. authorities staff. It additionally licensed non-emergency staff to depart.
Britain has additionally warned its nationals to keep away from touring to Sri Lanka except completely mandatory.
ISLAMIC STATE BANNERS
The east coast battle broke out when troops heading towards a suspected militant protected home have been repulsed by three explosions and gunfire, army spokesman Sumith Atapattu mentioned.
“Troops retaliated and raided the protected home the place a big cache of explosives had been saved,” he mentioned in a press release, including that the militants have been suspected members of the home Islamist group Nationwide Towheed Jama’at (NTJ), which has been blamed for final Sunday’s assaults.
Bomb-making supplies, dozens of gelignite sticks and hundreds of ball bearings have been present in a search of a separate home in the identical space together with Islamic State banners and uniforms, the army mentioned.
Police mentioned on Friday they have been attempting to trace down 140 folks they consider have hyperlinks with Islamic State, whereas Sri Lanka’s president mentioned some Sri Lankan youths had been concerned with it since 2013 and that there have been drug trafficking hyperlinks.
“Our efforts to eradicate the medicine menace from the nation may have superior the ISIS assault,” Sirisena mentioned.
Practically 10,000 troopers have been deployed throughout the Indian Ocean island state to hold out searches and supply safety for spiritual facilities, the army mentioned.
Authorities have to date centered their investigations on worldwide hyperlinks to 2 home teams they consider carried out the assaults, NTJ and Jammiyathul Millathu Ibrahim.
They mentioned they’ve detained no less than 76 folks, together with foreigners from Syria and Egypt, with 20 arrested up to now 24 hours alone.
In a separate raid on a mosque in Colombo, a suspect was arrested and a haul of 40 swords and kris knives have been seized from below the mattress of the chief cleric, police mentioned.
Islamic State supplied no proof that it was behind Sunday’s blasts, which might be one of many worst assaults carried out by the group exterior Iraq and Syria.
The group launched a video displaying eight males, all however one with their faces coated, below a black Islamic State flag and declaring their loyalty to its chief, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi.
Muslims have been urged to hope at house on Friday after the State Intelligence Providers warned of doable automobile bomb assaults, amid fears of retaliatory violence. Many have fled their houses amid bomb scares, lockdowns and safety sweeps.
Archbishop of Colombo Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith instructed reporters he had seen an inside safety doc warning of additional assaults on church buildings and mentioned there can be no Catholic lots this Sunday wherever on the island.
Sri Lanka’s 22 million folks embody minority Christians, Muslims and Hindus. Till now, Christians had largely managed to keep away from the worst of the island’s battle and communal tensions.
Many of the victims of the Easter Sunday suicide bombings have been Sri Lankans, though authorities mentioned no less than 40 foreigners have been killed, a lot of them vacationers sitting right down to breakfast at top-end resorts when the bombers struck.
They included British, U.S., Australian, Turkish, Indian, Chinese language, Danish, Dutch and Portuguese nationals.
GRAPHIC: Sri Lanka bombings – https://tmsnrt.rs/2Xy02BA
A decade of peace shattered – https://tmsnrt.rs/2W4wZoU