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Sri Lanka News Alert

Sri Lanka: Security operation reported in Ampara district April 26 /update 15

Gunshots reported amid security operation in Sainthamaruthu (Ampara district) April 26; avoid the area; heightened security measures expected over coming days

26 Apr 03:19 PM UTC
TIMEFRAME expected from 4/26/2019, 12:00 AM until 5/4/2019, 11:59 PM (Asia/Colombo). COUNTRY/REGION Sri Lanka, Colombo, Bandaranaike International Airport, Sainthamaruthu
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Event

Gunshots have been reported amid a security operation in Sainthamaruthu (Ampara district) on Friday evening (local time), April 26. Government forces reportedly engaged the unidentified gunmen during a security operation related to the Easter Sunday (April 21) bombings. There are no immediate reports of casualties. Further details are emerging; avoid the area. 

Heightened security measures remain in place across the country as of April 26, particularly around places of worship. Both Catholic and Muslim religious leaders have suspended services due to the fear of retaliatory violence. Military officials indicate that over 10,000 soldiers have been deployed nationwide to conduct security operations and protect religious centers. Residents in Colombo reported an increased security presence on Friday and that some shops remain closed. The US Embassy in Colombo also warned citizens to avoid places of worship and large crowds through Sunday, April 28, as a precaution due to the possibility of additional attacks. 

The government declared a state of emergency on Monday, April 22, in response to the bombings, allowing police to detain people and conduct searches and seizures. Social media and messaging platforms remain blocked and curfews have been implemented nightly since the attacks. Further such security measures and associated disruptions, including at Bandaranaike International Airport (CMB), are expected in the coming days.

Context

A series of coordinated bombings struck Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday (April 21), killing at least 253 people, including 39 foreign nationals, and wounding approximately 500 others. Churches and prominent hotels in Colombo, Negombo, and Batticaloa were targeted in the attacks. Authorities blamed a local Islamist group, National Thowheeth Jama'ath, for the attacks, claiming that the group planned the bombings with assistance from an international terrorist organization. The Islamic State (IS) later claimed responsibility for the attack via its media arm on April 23. The UK government advised against all but essential travel to the country as of April 25.

Advice

Individuals in Sri Lanka, particularly in Colombo, are advised to monitor developments to the situation, anticipate heightened security measures and limited telecommunications access, report suspicious behavior and objects to the police, carry proper identification, and adhere to instructions issued by local authorities (e.g. checkpoints, curfews, etc.) and their home governments.

Travelers flying to or from CMB are advised to anticipate a heightened security presence, delays, and allow at least four hours to pass through security checkpoints.

 

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