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Sri Lanka police discover suspected training camp for extremist militants

Security personnel inspect the interior of St Sebastian's Church in Negombo on April 22, 2019, a day after the church was hit in series of bomb blasts targeting churches and luxury hotels in Sri Lanka. - At least 290 are now known to have died in a series of bomb blasts that tore through churches and luxury hotels in Sri Lanka, in the worst violence to hit the island since its devastating civil war ended a decade ago. (Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images/Getty Images)

Sri Lankan police on Sunday discovered a 10-acre camp in the eastern town of Kattankudy, where extremist militants linked to the deadly Easter attacks are believed to have practiced shooting and bombmaking.

The walled terrain is nestled in a poor residential area on the outskirts of the home town of Zahran Hashim, who is believed to have been a key player in plotting the April 21 attacks. Daesh has claimed responsibility for the church and hotel bombings that killed more than 250 people.

The narrow, sandy plot is dotted with a cinderblock four-story watchtower, as well as mango trees, a chicken coop and a goat shed.

“They wanted to show this place was normal. If someone comes to see, it looks like a farm. But what they were doing is terrorism,” said a senior police officer in the Batticaloa area, asking to remain anonymous because he was not authorized to speak to media.

Police found bullet holes in the wall on one side of the grounds, as well as long tubes suspected of holding bombs, the officer said.

Two owners of the plot of land have been arrested, the officer said.

Meanwhile, a city near Sri Lanka’s capital was placed under curfew by police Sunday, following clashes between Muslim and Christian mobs.

A senior police officer said the restrictions were imposed to prevent an escalation of violence after attacks occurred in Negombo — north of Colombo — where over 100 people died in a church bombing.

“About two motorcycles and a three-wheel taxi had been damaged in the clashes,” the police officer told AFP. “We declared a curfew till 7.00 am (0130 GMT) to contain the unrest.”

There were no immediate reports of casualties.

The country’s main international airport is located in the area, but police said there was no disruption to airport traffic.

The officer said an investigation was underway into the clashes, the first violence between Muslims and Christians since the Easter Sunday attacks targeting three churches and three luxury hotels in the country.

The country has been under a state of emergency since the attacks. Security forces and the police have been give sweeping powers to arrest and detain suspects for long periods.


© 2019 the Arab News (Jeddah, Saudi Arabia)

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