SL military gets sweeping powers to protect religious places

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Colombo, April 25 (IANS) Nearly 4,000 military personnel with sweeping police powers to arrest suspects were on Thursday tasked to provide security to churches and other religious places across Sri Lanka in the wake of the Easter Sunday bombings.

A statement from the Defence Ministry said hundreds of Army officers and other ranks “immediately took up position” across the country after the armed forces were conferred with “the powers of search, detention or arrest without warrant”, reports Efe news.

A total of 3,984 military personnel in coordination with the police will provide security to religious places and vital installations like power stations, government buildings, hospitals, hotels, bus stands and television centres.

All embassies and diplomatic missions have also been given necessary security.

Security has also been beefed up at highways, public markets, bridges and “all other vulnerable points”, the statement said.

The troops, it said, “have begun foot patrols, vehicle patrols and static patrols in all major cities and suburbs” of the country.

The island nation has been in a state of emergency since Monday following a presidential order from Maithripala Sirisena after suicide bombers in coordinated attacks hit three luxury hotels in Colombo and three churches around the country during Easter services.

A few hours later, a seventh blast rocked a small hotel near the Dehiwala Zoo, south of the capital, while an eighth explosion took place at a residential compound in Colombo.

A total of 359 people, including 39 foreigners, were killed and 500 injured in the carnage claimed by Islamic State militant group.

Some 70 Sri Lankan suspects who may have aided the suicide bombers have been arrested.

Makeshift checkpoints were set up across the country to carry out detailed searches of vehicles.

The moves come after a series of warnings was issued by the State Intelligence Services on possible car bomb attacks in the country.

–IANS

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