Sri Lanka bans face-covering clothing after Easter terror attacks

Cheryl Sanders
May 1, 2019

President Maithripala Sirisena said he was using emergency powers to ban any form of face covering in public "to ensure national security".

The Sri Lankan government issued a notice on Sunday to ban burqas and other face-covering garments from Monday onwards.

Police say they have arrested more than 150 people suspected to be involved with the coordinated suicide bombings that devastated three luxury hotels and three churches, two of which are Roman Catholic.

A statement from the office of the President said the ban was being introduced from today under new regulations brought under a state of emergency in response to the Easter bombings in the capital, Colombo.

The niqab covers the whole head apart from the eyes while the burqa features a thin veil across the eye-openings.

Only a small number of women are thought to wear the face-covering niqab, or the burka - a one-piece veil that covers the face and body.

Three of the 15 people killed were the same people who were seen in the undated video on social media, in which they discus martyrdom and urge their followers to kill all non believers, police sources said.

Speaking to CNN on Monday, Sirisena said the bombers of Easter Sunday attacks had "very clear links" to the Islamic State group.

While Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attacks, police believe the National Tawheed Jamath, a local extremist group, might be behind the atrocities.

According to Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry, one American national, two people holding USA and United Kingdom nationalities were among 42 foreign nationals killed in the Easter Sunday attack.

On Friday, security forces and police engaged in a gun battle with armed men after raiding a house in the town of Sainthamaruthu in eastern Sri Lanka.

"We certainly have reason to believe that the active attack group has not been fully rendered inactive", Teplitz said in an interview with Reuters.

Sri Lankan leaders have been strongly criticised over the massive security failure that led up to the attack as intelligence officials had reportedly already warned the country's authorities of a possible terror attack as early as mid-April.

The country has a population of about 22 million people, 70 percent of whom are Buddhist, 13 percent Hindu, 10 percent Muslim, and seven percent Christian, according to the country's 2012 census.

Authorities banned National Tawheed Jamaath over its ties to Mohammed Zahran, the alleged mastermind of the Easter Sunday bombings.

Sri Lanka remains on high alert and Sunday church services were cancelled across the country over the weekend, as a precaution.

Other reports by iNewsToday