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UK court again rejects Nirav Modi's bail plea

Nirav Modi. Image from Nirav Modi group's Facebook page.
Nirav Modi. Image from Nirav Modi group's Facebook page.
A British court on Wednesday extended, till May 30, the judicial custody of fugitive diamantaire Nirav Modi, while rejecting his fourth bail plea as it suspected that he could flee the country and "interfere" with witnesses.
 
The Westminster Magistrates' Court ordered the Metropolitan Police to put him under its custody till the next hearing on May 30.
 
The 48-year-old businessman, wanted in India in connection with the Rs 13,500 crore Punjab National Bank (PNB) fraud case, was arrested from Holborn here on March 19. Since then, he has been fighting extradition proceedings. 
 
Nirav Modi was produced before the court via videoconferencing from Wandsworth prison in south-west London. 
 
The businessman and his uncle Mehul Choksi are being investigated by the Enforcement Directorate and the Central Bureau of Investigation after the PNB alleged that they cheated it of Rs 13,500 crore with the involvement of a few bank employees.
 
Both fled India before the details of the fraud emerged in January 2018. The ED on February 26, 2018 attached property worth Rs 147 crore of Nirav Modi and his companies in connection with the case.
 
This is the fourth time that the businessman's bail has been rejected by the court. Nirav Modi's first bail plea was rejected on the second day after his arrest, and the other two pleas subsequently. 
 
Judge Emma Arbuthnot on March 29 had granted the Metropolitan Police custody of Nirav Modi. She is the same judge who ordered the extradition of former Kingfisher Airlines boss Vijay Mallya in December. 
 
IANS

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Blast near Sufi shrine in Lahore kills 8

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At least eight people were killed and 25 injured in a suicide bombing targeting a police patrol near a Sufi shrine in Pakistan's Lahore city on Wednesday, police said.
 
Five police officers were among those killed in the blast near the Data Darbar Sufi shrine, one of the largest in South Asia, Dawn online reported.
 
The explosion, which occurred at around 8.45 a.m., targeted an Elite Force of Punjab Police vehicle parked near the shrine's Gate 2, the entrance for female visitors. 
 
"Eight people, including five policemen, were killed and 25 are injured, including police officials," Punjab Police chief Arif Nawaz Khan told the media. He added that the police were "100 per cent" the target of the attack.
 
The impact of the blast shattered windows in nearby vehicles and buildings, bystanders said.
 
Police spokesperson Nayab Haider told Geo News that initial investigation suggested that the incident was a suicide bombing and the bomb contained seven kg of explosive material. 
 
No group has claimed responsibility for the explosion.
 
Lahore Deputy Commissioner Saleha Saeed told the media that one of the bodies brought to a hospital was that of the suspected attacker. 
 
Entry to the Data Darbar was sealed in the aftermath of the attack and security measures were heightened at religious sites in the city in the month of Ramzan.
 
Prime Minister Imran Khan "expressed grief over the loss of precious lives".
 
Data Darbar, which dates back to the 11th century, was also targeted in a 2010 suicide attack that killed more than 40 people.
 
IANS
 

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Jailed Reuters journalists freed in Myanmar

 
Reuters reporters jailed in Myanmar freed from prison
Two Reuters journalists, who were jailed after reporting a massacre carried out by Myanmar's military forces against the Rohingya Muslim minority, were freed on Tuesday after more than 500 days in prison.
 
Wa Lone, 33, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 29, were found guilty in September 2018 of violating the colonial-era Official Secrets Act over their reporting of the massacre in the village of Inn Dinn in Rakhine state. They were sentenced to seven years in prison.
 
Locked up since 2017, the journalists, who received this year's Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting, were freed on Tuesday morning after they received a presidential pardon earlier this week, CNN reported.
 
As he left the prison, Wa Lone thanked supporters for calling for his and his colleague's release.
 
"Inside in the prison and also around the world people were wishing to release us so I'd like to say thank you very much for everything," he said, adding he was "really happy -- excited -- to see my family and colleagues. And I can't wait to go to my newsroom".
 
In January, the High Court in Yangon threw out their appeals, and on April 23, the country's Supreme Court rejected their last attempt to get their convictions overturned.
 
After that final defeat, the journalists' lawyer said they had to hope for a presidential pardon, which they finally received this week after years of international pressure.
 
Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, their lawyers, and the news agency have all maintained that the pair never committed any crime. 
 
The reporters said they were entrapped, a claim backed by the testimony of police captain Moe Yan Naing, who testified last month that a senior officer had ordered him and other subordinates to offer secret documents to Wa Lone as bait, reports Efe news.
 
The Inn Dinn massacre being investigated by the journalists came during a brutal campaign by the military against the Muslim Rohingya minority in August 2017 after a series of attacks by an insurgent group of the same ethnicity against around 30 security posts.
 
The investigation led to seven soldiers being sentenced to 10 years in prison, the only case of abuse acknowledged by Myanmar authorities.
 
More than 720,000 Rohingya are estimated to have been forced to flee into Bangladesh as a result of the ensuing violence.
 
IANS
 

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7.2-magnitude earthquake rocks Papua New Guinea

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A 7.2-magnitude earthquake struck in the South Pacific nation of Papua New Guinea on Tuesday, according to the US Geological Survey.
 
The earthquake which occurred at 07:19 a.m. local time was initially determined to be at 6.977 degrees south latitude and 146.440 degrees east longitude at a depth of 126.9 km, the Xinhua news agency reported.
 
No tsunami warning has been issued at this time.
 
IANS
 

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At least 55 killed in Nigeria oil tanker explosion

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At least 55 people were killed and 37 were injured in an oil tanker explosion in Nigeria, authorities say.
 
The explosion happened late Sunday on the road leading to the airport in Niamey, the capital of the West African country, the CNN reported. 
 
The victims were trying to collect the spilt oil from the overturned tanker.
 
Another 37 people were injured in the explosion, Interior Minister Mohamed Bazoum said in a Twitter post.
 
Bazoum visited the site of the accident with President Issoufou Mahamadou and posted in French on his Twitter account: "This morning with the #PM at the site of a tragedy at the Airport district following the overturning of a tanker truck not far from a gas station. While some residents were trying to siphon gasoline, the truck exploded."
 
The President also visited some of the injured in a hospital and called the incident a "national tragedy."
 
"I would like to extend my most heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families. May the departed rest in peace and speedy recovery to the wounded," he said.
 
IANS
 

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All 13 aboard killed in Mexico jet crash

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All 13 people aboard an executive jet, that went missing en route from the US city of Las Vegas to Monterrey, perished when the plane crashed near the town of Ocampo, authorities in Coahuila state said on Monday.
 
The aircraft, a Bombardier Challenger 601, was reported missing Sunday evening, the Efe news reported.
 
The jet took off around 5.00 p.m. (local time) on Sunday from McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas bound for the business hub of Monterrey, capital of Nuevo Leon state.
 
"An aerial sighting permitted us to locate the remains of the airplane in a difficult-to-access mountainous zone of the municipality of Ocampo," the state government said in a statement.
 
Earlier Monday, Coahuila's public safety secretary said that first responders were searching for the missing plane.
 
"We are attending to the case because reports and alerts came from the civil aviation community," Jose Luis Pliego Corono said. "It's not about false information that suddenly appeared in social media, but an alert that emerged precisely from the civil aviation community."
 
Media outlets said the 10 passengers aboard the aircraft flew to Las Vegas for Saturday's boxing match pitting Mexico's Canelo Alvarez against the US fighter Daniel Jacobs.
 
Alvarez triumphed in the bout at T-Mobile Arena to unify three middleweight world titles.
 
The boxer extended condolences Monday to the loved ones of the crash victims.
 
"I lament deeply the terrible accident of the airplane coming from Vegas. I give heart-felt thanks to all the people who travel to see my fights. My prayers are with their families," Alvarez said on Twitter.
 
IANS
 

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41 killed in Russian passenger plane fire

 
Forty-one people killed in fiery Russian plane crash
At least 41 people were killed after a Russian plane made an emergency landing and burst into flames at Sheremetyevo airport in Moscow.
 
Videos on social media show passengers using emergency exit slides to escape the burning Aeroflot aircraft, the BBC reported on Sunday.
 
Two children and a flight attendant were among the dead, Russian media reported.
 
One witness said it was a "miracle" anyone escaped the jet, which was carrying 78 passengers and five crew.
 
Veronika Skvortsova, head of Russia's ministry of health, said in a statement that six patients are in hospital - three of whom are in a critical condition.
 
Aeroflot, Russia's national carrier, said the plane was forced to return to the airport "for technical reasons", but did not elaborate.
 
The aircraft, a Sukhoi Superjet-100, departed Sheremetyevo airport at 6.02 p.m. for the city of Murmansk.
 
The crew issued a distress signal when "malfunctions" occurred shortly after departure.
 
After making an emergency landing at the airport, the plane's engines caught fire on the runway, Aeroflot said in a statement.
 
The crew "did everything to save the passengers," who were evacuated in 55 seconds, the firm said.
 
Of the 78 people on board the Superjet-100, only 37 have been accounted for, the Russian Investigative Committee said.
 
Aeroflot published a list of survivors (in Russian) who have been identified so far, adding that it will continue to be updated as new information comes to light.
 
Interfax quotes a source as saying the plane's engines caught fire on the runway after a hard landing, not in mid-air as initially reported.
 
Reports also suggest it did not succeed in its first emergency landing attempt.
 
Murmansk's Acting Governor Andrey Chibis has reportedly said that the families of those killed in the fire will each receive one million rubles ($15,300), while the victims being treated in hospital will be given 500,000 rubles ($7,650).
 
Mikhail Savchenko claims he was on the plane when it exploded into a fireball on the tarmac but "managed to jump out".
 
He shared a video of passengers running away from the burning plane, posting: "'Guys I am all right, I am alive and in one piece."
 
One of the surviving passengers, Dmitry Khlebushkin, says that he is very grateful to the flight attendants.
 
"Only thanks to the flight attendants, I survived," he told reporters.
 
Kristian Kostov, a former Bulgarian Eurovision contestant, has posted on social media about witnessing the incident.
 
He said people at the airport were left "shaking" after seeing the aircraft engulfed by fire and said other flights are now unable to take-off.
 
Another eyewitness, Patrick Horlacher, told the BBC it was "shocking to see" the plane being ravaged by flames just minutes before he was due to board another flight.
 
An investigation has been opened into the incident, reports say.
 
Russian President Vladimir Putin has reportedly been briefed and expressed condolences to the families of victims.
 
The region of Murmansk has announced a three-day mourning period.
 
IANS

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Cyclone Fani kills four in Bangladesh

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At least four people were killed and 63 others injured as cyclone Fani on Saturday hit Bangladesh coast after striking the Indian states of Odisha and West Bengal, a Minister said.
 
The toll was confirmed by State Minister for Disaster Management Enamur Rahman in a briefing at the Secretariat, reports bdnews24.
 
At least 1.6 million people taken to storm centres can return home by later Saturday, he added.
 
The Bangladesh Meteorological Department has however, lowered danger signals for Mongla, Payra, Chattogram and Cox's Bazar districts.
 
A storm surge of 4-5 feet height above normal astronomical tide may hit the coastal districts under the influence of the storm and the new moon phase, it said.
 
The severe cyclonic storm, one of the strongest to batter the Indian sub-continent in decades, weakened before entering Bangladesh on Saturday morning from West Bengal. 
 
It first made landfall in Odisha on Friday morning.
 
It crossed Tangail and Mymensingh region as a deep depression in the noon, said the Met office.
 
The storm will become weaker after rain.
 
All fishing boats and trawlers over the North Bay and deep-sea have been advised to proceed with caution until further notice.
 
Under the influence of Fani, strong winds with rain started to lash many parts of coastal Bangladesh from Friday night, destroying homes, damaging crops and roads, and uprooting trees.
 
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US commercial plane slides into river, no casualties

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A US commercial jet with more than 130 people on board, slid into a river in Florida, an official said, adding that all lives have been accounted for.
 
"We have a commercial plane down on the river," Lenny Curry, Mayor of Jacksonville said on Friday.
 
It is unclear how many were injured, reports Xinhua news agency.
 
The flight, a Boeing 737, slid off a runway into the St. Johns river at about 9.40 p.m. on Friday, according to a spokesman from the Naval Air Station Jacksonville. 
 
It appears that the plane skidded into the river as it tried to land.
 
The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office said in a tweet that the plane was in "shallow water" and was not "submerged".
 
It is also unclear if the cause of the incident was similar to that of the two deadly Boeing 737 MAX crashes in recent months. 
 
IANS
 

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Jaish chief Masood Azhar declared global terrorist by UNSC

Masood Azhar (File photo: IANS)
Masood Azhar (File photo: IANS)
In a huge diplomatic victory for India, the UN Security Council (UNSC) on Wednesday declared Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) chief Masood Azhar as a global terrorist, two and a half months after his outfit carried out the ghastly terror attack in Kashmir's Pulwama.
 
The UNSC's Sanctions Committee 1267 made the declaration after China, which had blocked the proposal four times earlier, lifted its "technical hold" amidst intense pressure from the Security Council's other permanent members like the US, the UK and France.
 
"Big, small, all join together. Masood Azhar designated as a terrorist in @UN Sanctions list. Grateful to all for their support," India's Permanent Representative to the UN Syed Akbaruddin tweeted.
 
The action will mean that Azhar's assets will be frozen by the UN member-countries and his travel will be barred in these nations.
 
"It (defending Azhar) was increasingly becoming untenable for the Chinese," said an Indian government official on condition of anonymity.
 
China had indicated on Tuesday that it would no more block the resolution, which was initially moved by India, as its Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said the "relevant consultations" at the Sanctions Committee had made "some progress" and the issue would be "properly resolved".
 
Beijing had been blocking Azhar's listing despite a strong push by the US, UK and France. The latest such action was taken by China last month, which was described by India as "disappointing".
 
Azhar, a Pakistani national, founded the JeM with the help of Pakistan's intelligence agency ISI in January 2000, soon after his release from an Indian jail in exchange for 166 hostages of an Indian Airlines plane which was hijacked to Kandahar in Afghanistan during a flight from Kathmandu to New Delhi.
 
Since then, the outfit has carried out umpteen terror attacks in India, including the one on Parliament on December 13, 2001.
 
The latest outrageous action by the outfit was in Pulwama on February 14, when a suicide bomber of JeM rammed his explosive-laden vehicle into a CRPF convoy on Srinagar-Jammu National Highway, killing 40 security personnel.
 
"To say that Beijing blacklisted Azhar under US pressure was not the only factor. But the Americans going about the 1267 Committee and circulating their own draft at the UN Security Council would have surely concerned the Chinese," the Indian official added.
 
"At the Security Council, the Chinese would have had to explain its position if they vetoed the resolution which is not the case at the 1267 committee," the official explained. 
 
IANS
 

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Japan welcomes Emperor Naruhito, new era begins

 
New emperor brings Japan into 'Reiwa' era
Japan on Wednesday welcomed its new Emperor Naruhito who pledged to fulfil his role as a "symbol of the state and unity" and said he would follow the course charted by his father at a ceremony to formally recognise his accession to the throne.
 
The 59-year-old was speaking as he officially began his reign on Wednesday in a short but symbolic ceremony at the Imperial Palace. He was joined on the dais by his wife, Empress Masako.
 
Naruhito succeeds his father, 85-year-old Akihito, who abdicated citing his age and failing health. According to semi-mythological tradition, Naruhito is the 126th consecutive Japanese Emperor.
 
In his speech, Emperor Naruhito paid tribute to his father while pledging to show the same devotion to his people, the BBC reported.
 
"(Akihito) showed profound compassion through his own bearing. I swear that I will reflect deeply on the course followed by the Emperor Emeritus and fulfil my responsibility as the symbol of the state and of the unity of the people of Japan."
 
He technically became the Emperor at the stroke of midnight when his father's reign came to an end -- marking the start of the new Reiwa era, which roughly translates to "beautiful harmony".
 
Earlier in the day, he symbolically took possession of the sacred imperial regalia -- a sword and a gem -- that have been passed down through the generations. No female members of the imperial family were permitted to attend the ceremony after the government controversially decided to honour precedents set by previous accession rites. 
 
The Minister for Regional Revitalisation, Satsuki Katayama, was the only woman present on the occasion.
 
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe later welcomed the new Emperor on behalf of the nation. "We are determined to create a bright future for a proud Japan filled with peace and hope at a time when the international situation is changing dramatically," he said.
 
Chinese President Xi Jinping was among several world leaders to send their congratulations. Kyodo news agency quoted Xi as saying Japan and China had "a long history of friendly exchanges". 
 
"The two sides should work together to promote peaceful development and create a bright future for bilateral relations," he said.
 
Japan's monarchy is considered to be the longest-lived continuous hereditary royal dynasty in the world. 
 
IANS
 

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Trump misses White House Correspondents' Dinner

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US President Donald Trump, for a third year in a row, did not attend the annual White House Correspondents' Dinner and instead held a rally in Wisconsin.
 
A small number of Trump aides, including counsellor to the President Kellyanne Conway, did attend some of the social events that took place before Saturday night's dinner, CNN reported.
 
Conway, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and comedian Jay Leno all posed for photos at a Saturday morning garden brunch that sought to raise money for veterans. 
 
But in a departure from the comedians that traditionally follow the President, historian Ron Chernow delivered a history-filled keynote speech at the gala held in the Washington Hilton that contemplated the relationship of past Presidents with the press.
 
Chernow, the author of the Alexander Hamilton biography that inspired the hit musical "Hamilton", was well received as he alternated between clever jokes and a call to arms for democracy.
 
He told the audience of journalists that he had done his research -- by reading Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen's play, "An Enemy of the People", which is the way President Trump frequently refers to the press that covers him, reports NBC news. 
 
"I had no idea the president was a fan of Norwegian literature." 
 
Chernow advised journalists that when the President slams them with the phrase again, "please think of it in the Norwegian sense and wear it as a badge of honour".
 
He received a standing ovation after running through a list of journalists' accomplishments, declaring: "This is a glorious tradition -- you folks are a part of it, and we can't have politicians trampling on it with impunity." 
 
He only mentioned Trump by name once, but the President's "enemy of the people" rhetoric came up repeatedly.
 
"When you chip away at the press, you chip away at our democracy," Chernow said.
 
He also said that everyone in attendance is part of "Team USA, not members of enemy camps".
 
His advice for the press? He quoted billionaire investor Warren Buffett saying "always take the high road. It's far less crowded there".
 
At cocktail parties before the sit-down dinner, several journalists commented that the event felt less tense without the presence of White House press officials who are torn between their day-to-day jobs and the President's anti-media attacks.
 
Last year's speech at the dinner, by comedian Michelle Wolf, was criticised by the Trump administration and also by members of the press.
 
Wolf's routine featured fierce jokes about Trump, his children and top members of his administration, including White House press secretary Sarah Sanders, who was sitting on the dais as Wolf mocked her as a liar. 
 
IANS

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Four people killed in US crane collapse

 
Crane collapse kills four, injures three in Seattle
Four people were killed and eight others injured after a crane collapsed onto several cars in the US city of Seattle, authorities said.
 
The crane collapsed near the intersection of Mercer Street and Fairview Avenue shortly after 3 p.m. on Saturday, reports Xinhua news agency.
 
The Seattle Fire Department said six cars were crushed by the collapse. 
 
The cause of the accident is being investigated. 
 
IANS
 
 
 
 
 

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1 killed in US synagogue shooting, suspect held

 
1 dead, 3 wounded in synagogue shooting
A 19-year-old suspect was held after a shooting at a synagogue in the US state of California left at least one person dead and injured three others, authorities said.
 
The shooting occurred on Saturday at Congregation Chabad in the city of Poway, north of San Diego, Mayor Steve Vaus said, adding that it was a possible hate crime "because of statements that were made when the shooter entered", reports CNN.
 
The Mayor said the congregation was targeted by "someone with hate in their heart... towards our Jewish community and that just will not stand". The congregation "took security very seriously", he said.
 
The Palomar Medical Centre Poway received four patients from the shooting, according to a staff doctor.
 
One patient, a 60-year-old woman, died at the hospital, Michael Katz said.
 
"The other three victims are doing well with their injuries," he told the media.
 
A 57-year-old rabbi who was shot suffered what looked like defensive wounds to both of his index fingers. He will likely lose his right index finger, the doctor said.
 
A 34-year-old man and a girl had shrapnel injuries. The girl, whose age was not given, was wounded in one leg and in the face. She was transferred to a children's hospital and will be monitored overnight.
 
San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore later identified the suspect as John Earnest. Authorities are investigating to see whether Earnest is connected to arson at a mosque in nearby Escondido from last month, CNN reported.
 
Gore said Earnest was armed with an "AR-type assault weapon".
 
In response to the incident, President Donald Trump, speaking outside the White House on Saturday, said: "At this moment it looks like a hate crime, but my deepest sympathies to all of those affected and we'll get to the bottom of it."
 
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15 killed after fierce gun battle in Sri Lanka

Policemen patrol in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on April 26, 2019. (Xinhua/Wang Shen/IANS)
Policemen patrol in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on April 26, 2019. (Xinhua/Wang Shen/IANS)
A total of 15 people were killed following a fierce gun battle between Sri Lankan forces and an armed group in Kalmunai city, the military said on Saturday.
 
A military official told Xinhua news agency that terrorists opened fire when the Sri Lankan troops were attempting to raid a safe house used by the armed group affiliated to an Islamic terrorist organisation.
 
Some suicide bombers later blew themselves up inside the safe house.
 
Among the bodies recovered inside the house, were three men, three women and six children, the Daily Mirror reported. 
 
Three more bodies of men suspected to be the suicide bombers were found outside the house.
 
Search operations are ongoing to see if more suspected terrorists are hiding in the surrounding areas and the entire area remains cordoned off.
 
A curfew is still in place in Kalmunai and its surrounding areas after it was imposed on Friday night.
 
Earlier on Friday evening, the military said security forces also had recovered flags belonging to the Islamic State, literature and some other objects from a house in the Ampara district also in the east, which is said to be the terrorist organisation's place for oath-taking. 
 
On Friday, 10 people were arrested from across the country bringing the number detained since the Easter Sunday bombings to 80.
 
Sunday's explosions killed 253 people and injured over 500 in one of the bloodiest days in Sri Lanka since the civil was ended a decade ago.
 
IANS
 

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Sri Lanka reduces toll to 253, Defence Secretary quits

 
Sri Lanka on edge with scares and lock-downs
Sri Lanka on Thursday revised down the toll in the Easter Sunday bloodbath to "about 253" even as Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando resigned accepting responsibility for the attack and security forces continued a search for accomplices of the suicide bombers.
 
The government also banned the use of all drones and unmanned aircraft within the Sri Lankan airspace with effect from Thursday and also kept its new visa-on-arrival programme, which was to be implemented from May 1, on hold due to the security situation in the island nation.
 
Bringing down the toll by over 100 from 359 to "about 253", the Health Ministry blamed "a calculation error" for the higher figure, the BBC reported.
 
After submitting his resignation, Fernando said that while there was no failure on his own part, he was taking responsibility for the failures of some institutions which were under his command.
 
President Maithripala Sirisena, who himself has come under attack from the opposition for failing to prevent the mass killings, had earlier asked the Defence Secretary and the police chief to quit.
 
Tourism, Wildlife and Christian Religious Affairs Minister John Amaratunga said that investigations had revealed foreign links to the attacks and the government did not want the visa-on-arrival facility to be abused.
 
Tourism was one of the worst hit industries following the deadly blasts on Sunday in three Sri Lankan cities, primarily in and around Colombo. 
 
The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attack that also left 500 injured but Colombo has blamed a local Muslim group, the National Thowheed Jamath (NJT).
 
The Sri Lanka Police released photographs of six young suspects - three males and three females - wanted in connection with the bombings. The Criminal Investigation Department (CID) sought public assistance to trace them.
 
The six were identified as: Mohammad Ivuhaim Sadiq Abdul Haq, Mohammed Ivuhaim Shaid Abdul Haq and Mohammed Casim Mohammed Rilwan (all men) and Fatima Latif, Pulasthini Rajendran alias Sarah, Abdul Cader Fatima Kadir (all women).
 
It was not clear if the six were linked to the National Thowheed Jamath.
 
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On Thursday, security forces set up checkpoints and stepped up random checking of vehicles across Sri Lanka.
 
In the morning, at around 9 a.m., a minor explosion took place in a garbage dump behind the Magistrate's Court in Pugoda, 36 km from Colombo, reported Xinhua news agency.
 
After the blast, police advised the general public not to panic, said the Daily Mirror. 
 
In an indication that all was not well in Sri Lanka, Israel's Counter-Terrorism Bureau raised the threat level to indicate a "high concrete" mark and advised travellers to leave the island and avoid visiting it in the near future, CNN reported. 
 
Although four days have passed since the bloodbath, Sri Lanka remains on the edge. Schools and colleges remain shut and a general sense of insecurity prevails. 
 
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe told CNN that some attackers responsible for the Easter Sunday bombings were being monitored by the intelligence services but there was not "sufficient" evidence to put them in custody before the attacks.
 
He reiterated that the attackers were middle- and upper-middle class and had been educated abroad. He added that the profile of the suspected bombers was "surprising".
 
Police are holding the wealthy father of two of the suicide bombers on suspicion of aiding and abetting his sons to carry out Easter Sunday attacks.
 
Mohamed Yusuf Ibrahim, a spice moghul, was arrested on Sunday following attacks at hotels and churches. His adult sons, Imsath Ahmed Ibrahim and Ilham Ahmed Ibrahim, blew themselves up in two different attacks earlier that day.
 
Police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera said five safe houses had been raided in the country. 
 
More than 70 suspects have been taken into custody on a range of charges. Of these, four were female and all are Muslims. None is a foreigner.
 
The Easter Sunday marked the bloodiest day in Sri Lanka since the end of the civil war a decade ago.
 
IANS
 

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India, China in US' black list for IP theft

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China continues to head the "black list" prepared by the US government on intellectual property theft and patent violations worldwide, a list including 11 countries and which also includes Argentina, Chile and Venezuela.
 
In its "Special 301" annual report for 2018, the Office of the US Trade Representative Office (USTR) identifies "trading partners that do not adequately or effectively protect and enforce intellectual property (IP) rights or otherwise deny market access to US innovators and creators that rely on protection of their IP rights."
 
The "black list" includes 11 countries: Algeria, Argentina, Chile, China, India, Indonesia, Kuwait, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Ukraine and Venezuela, the Efe news reported. 
 
The report "identifies foreign trading partners where IP protection and enforcement has deteriorated or remained at inadequate levels and where US persons who rely on IP protection have difficulty with fair and equitable market access."
 
The USTR document says that although Beijing did make some modest reforms to its judicial system over the past few years, it has not yet changed certain laws that enable Chinese firms to violate the intellectual property rights of foreign firms, including online piracy, counterfeiting and registering trademarks in bad faith, among other things.
 
Specifically, the question of intellectual property is one of the main points of friction in the current trade negotiations between China and the US designed to put an end to the tariff and trade war launched by US President Donald Trump and to which Beijing has responded with similar measures.
 
In second place on the list is India, with the USTR emphasising "longstanding deficiencies" in its IP framework and a lack of adequate measurable improvements concerning patents, copyrights, trade secrets and enforcement, along with new issues that are negatively affecting US right holders.
 
Chile and Venezuela had been on the list last year, while Argentina was added this year because of "longstanding and well-known challenges to IP-intensive industries, including from the US. A key deficiency in the legal framework for patents is the unduly broad limitations on patent eligible subject matter," the report states.
 
The report acknowledges "progress" by Chilean authorities but emphasises that there continues to be significant digital piracy in that country, while regarding Venezuela the USTR warns that "significant uncertainty and deterred investments in innovation and IP in recent years" have placed it considerably below international standards.
 
IANS
 

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Islamic State claims Sri Lanka bloodbath, toll 321

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The Islamic State on Tuesday claimed responsibility for the horrific Easter Sunday suicide bombings in Sri Lanka as the death toll in the carnage climbed to 321, including 10 Indians, with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe warning of more explosives and militants "out there" and that the Indian Embassy was also a "possible target".
 
The Islamic State's claim came as Sri Lankans started to bury the dead from the string of bombings. Tuesday was declared a national day of mourning and white flags were hung from buildings across Colombo as a three-minute silence was held from 8.30 a.m, about the time of the first of Sunday's bombings.
 
At St. Sebastian's in Negombo, around 40 km north of Colombo, more than 20 coffins were brought in for individual services in the run-up to a mass memorial. A few hundred metres away, a palm-lined lot donated to the church was turned into a mass burial site, where 22 bodies were laid to rest. 
 
An Arabic language statement on the Islamic State group's official al-Amaq news agency made the claim on an encrypted messaging app, saying the suicide bombers were "fighters of the Islamic State".
 
"The perpetrators of the attack that targeted nationals of the crusader alliance (anti-IS US-led coalition) and Christians in Sri Lanka were Islamic State fighters," the brief message said.
 
Tuesday's statement came after an unconfirmed video posted to social media by an affiliated group suggested that the Islamic State was behind the Easter horror. That video showed photos of three of the alleged suicide bombers.
 
The men, who are described as "assailants" rather than the more common "martyrs", were named as Abul Barra, Abul Mukhtar and Abu Ubaida and featured in front of a black IS flag giving the one-finger salute, the news.com of Australia said.
 
Wickremesinghe on Tuesday warned that there were more explosives and militants "out there". He also acknowledged there was a prior warning of the attacks and said some officials would likely lose their jobs over intelligence lapses.
 
He also said there was a fourth failed attack on another major hotel and that the Indian Embassy was also a "possible target".
 
Sri Lankan authorities were making progress in identifying the culprits and evidence had been found on foreign links of the attacks, he added. 
 
About the Islamic State's claim, the Prime Minister said: "We will be following up on IS claims. We believe there may be links." 
 
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Earlier in the day, Defence Minister Ruwan Wijewardene said that the Easter attacks were a "retaliation" for last month's Christchurch mosque shootings that left 50 Muslims dead and were blamed on a white supermacist from Australia
 
Authorities have so far named a Sri Lankan Muslim group, the National Thowheed Jamath (NJT), for the Sunday bombings which left over 500 injured.
 
The Islamic State's and the Defence Minister's claim give an international dimension to the Sunday carnage that killed mostly Sri Lankans but also some 40 foreigners, including from the US and other Western countries as well as 10 Indians.
 
The Indian High Commission said that with the death of two more Indians, the Indian death toll had risen to 10.
 
Earlier on Tuesday, bomb disposal squads were called to Kollupitiya railway station in Colombo after an unattended package was found on a train. A state of emergency has been introduced and 40 arrests made, with the second overnight curfew lifted at 4 a.m.
 
A Syrian was among those arrested and a massive search operation was going on to nab more suspects. The government has suggested that seven suicide bombers were involved in the bombings.
 
A footage has also emerged of a suspected suicide bomber wearing a sky blue shirt and jeans and carrying a backpack, casually walking into an Easter congregation at St Sebastian's church in Negombo where he blew himself up. 
 
The series of attacks on Sunday began with six nearly simultaneous explosions targeting three luxury hotels in Colombo and three churches - one in Colombo, another in Negombo and the third in the Tamil-majority Batticaloa town in the island's east.
 
Hours later, a seventh blast took place in a small hotel near the Colombo zoo killing two persons. 
 
The last of the bombings occurred when police raided a residential complex in Dematagoda, a neighbourhood in Colombo, but a terrorist detonated himself killing three policemen and also the wife and sister of one of the suicide bombers. 
 
Sunday was the deadliest day in the country since the end of a civil war between Tamil Tigers and government forces that began in 1983 and ended in 2009.
 
The police in Colombo issued an alert that a van or truck carrying explosives may be in Colombo following which security was stepped up at government buildings and police stations.
 
IANS
 

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US ends waivers for India to buy Iranian oil

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The US announced on Monday it is ending the waiver given to India to buy Iranian oil and has threatened sanctions if it did not comply with the embargo.
 
Announcing the end of the waivers, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said: "Trump has decided not to reissue Significant Reduction Exceptions (SREs) when they expire in early May. This decision is intended to bring Iran's oil exports to zero, denying the regime its principal source of revenue."
 
When the US imposed sanctions on Iran in November, India and seven other countries were given exemptions that will expire May 2.
 
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo later told reporters that countries that do not abide by the embargo will face sanctions. They will encounter sanctions that will affect their international financial transactions, he said.
 
"We stand by our allies and partners as they transition away from Iranian crude to other alternatives," Pompeo added.
 
The US was increasing oil production and was working with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to ensure that there will be no disruptions in oil supplies as a result of the ending of the waivers, according to Pompeo.
 
In May 2018, Trump withdrew from the 2105 international agreement with Iran on de-nuclearisation that had ended sanctions on that country. 
 
In November, Trump re-imposed tough sanctions on Iran but gave India, China, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Turkey, Italy and Greece six-month temporary waivers to continue buying oil.
 
India was reportedly importing about 1.25 million tonnes of oil per month from Iran.
 
IANS
 

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Muslim group blamed for Sri Lanka horror, 8 Indians among 290 dead

Sri Lanka on Monday blamed a local Muslim outfit for the horrific Easter Sunday suicide bombings which killed 290 people, including eight Indians, and said the attacks were "a colossal intelligence failure".
 
Sri Lanka says attacks carried out by suicide bombers
Sri Lanka on Monday blamed a local Muslim outfit for the horrific Easter Sunday suicide bombings which killed 290 people, including eight Indians, and said the attacks were "a colossal intelligence failure".
 
At the same time, President Maithripala Sirisena announced that he would seek the assistance of foreign countries as "intelligence reports (indicate) that foreign terrorist organisations are behind the local terrorists". 
 
On Monday, 87 detonators were found from the main bus station at Pettah in Colombo while a bomb the security forces were trying to defuse exploded near the St Anthony Church in Colombo, triggering panic in the area.
 
More than 500 people were wounded, many seriously, in the Sunday horror and were admitted in hospitals even as the government investigated the complex network that meticulously targeted three luxury hotels in Colombo and a church each in Colombo, Negombo and Batticaloa besides two other locations in the national capital. 
 
While no group has claimed responsibility for the bloodbath, the government said that the National Thowheed Jamath (NTJ), a Sri Lankan Muslim group, carried out the attacks, stunning the island nation that had not seen such gore since the end of the civil war a decade ago.
 
Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne told the media: "NTJ was involved. It is a local organisation. We don't know whether they are linked to outsiders. All those arrested are locals."
 
But he, too, admitted that without an international network, "these attacks could not have succeeded".
 
Senaratne called the well-planned attacks a "colossal intelligence failure" and stated that, despite receiving prior information, they could not be prevented. He demanded the resignation of the Inspector General of Police. 
 
"As a government, we apologize to families and other institutions. The problem is that even when we met the Prime Minister at the Cabinet meeting, the Prime Minister was also in the dark," he said. 
 
The government said it will hold an official funeral on Tuesday to pay tributes to the nearly 300 people killed on Easter Sunday.
 
With schools shut nationwide and traffic on a low key, Sri Lanka reeled under the shock of the terror attack. 
 
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Authorities said eight Indians were among the over 30 foreigners killed in the multiple explosions. Five of them were Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) activists from Karnataka who were on a holiday after the end of Lok Sabha elections in Bengaluru.
 
They were identified as Shivanna, K.G. Hanumantharaya, M. Rangappa, K.M. Laxminarayan and Lakshmana Gowda Ramesh. Earlier, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj named three other Indians who died: Ramesh, Lakshmi and Narayan Chandrashekhar. 
 
An improvised explosive device (IED) was also detected near the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) on Monday morning and was disposed of in controlled explosion by the Sri Lanka Air Force, according to the Daily Mirror.
 
Police said that they had seized a van and its driver who allegedly transported some suspects into Colombo and also raided a safe house used by the attackers. 
 
Some two dozen suspects have been arrested.
 
There were curbs on some social media networks to try and stop misinformation from spreading.
 
The first of the eight blasts took place on Sunday morning in three luxury hotels -- Cinnamon Grand, Shangri-la, Kingsbury -- in the heart of Colombo and in a church each in Colombo, Negombo, 30 km from here, and in the Tamil-majority Batticaloa town in the island's east that was once a Tamil Tiger stronghold.
 
Later in the afternoon, another blast hit a guest house near the zoo in Dehiwala in Colombo, killing two persons, and a housing complex at Dematogoda in the city leaving three policemen dead.
 
Sri Lanka's National Security Council on Monday announced plans to impose a "conditional state of Emergency" from midnight.
 
It said the measures would target terrorism and would not limit freedom of expression.
 
Meanwhile, the US State Department said that terrorist groups continued to plot possible attacks in Sri Lanka and urged Americans visiting that country to exercise increased caution.
 
IANS
 

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India tells China to be sensitive to its concerns

Vijay Gokhale
Vijay Gokhale
India on Monday told China to be sensitive to its concerns as Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale met Chinese State Councillor Wang Yi here, with whom he is likely to raise the issue of blacklisting Pakistan-based terrorist Masood Azhar.
 
Gokhale is on two-day China visit to meet Wang, also China's Foreign Minister, and is expected to convince Beijing not to block a resolution to declare Azhar an international terrorist at a UN panel.
 
Azhar, a dreaded terrorist, is wanted for plotting deadly attacks in India. His terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammed claimed responsibility for carrying out a suicide bombing in Jammu and Kashmir's Pulwama on February 14 that killed 40 Central Reserve Police Force troopers.
 
China has repeatedly blocked all such resolutions by India, the US, Britain and France by placing a "technical hold" on them at the UN 1267 sanctions committee.
 
Last month, Beijing's placed its latest "technical hold" on the US-sponsored resolution against Azhar, a move that India called "disappointing".
 
"We will work together with the Chinese side to deepen mutual understanding, strengthen mutual trust to implements the decisions that are taken by the leaders and do it in a manner where we are sensitive to each other's concerns," Gokhale said while meeting Wang and Vice Foreign Minister Kong Xuanyou.
 
Gokhale, who was also India's former Ambassador to China, said both sides were working to implement what was agreed between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Wuhan summit last year.
 
"It's been a year since our leaders met in Wuhan and my colleagues, Vice (Foreign) Minister Kong Xuanyou and I have been following up on efforts to see that to implement the understandings that were reached at the meeting.
 
"Last year, we had very brisk political exchanges including your visit to Delhi for the first high-level meeting between for people to people exchange was an important development. And my Minister (Foreign) looks forward to coming for the second meeting in China later this year," he added. 
 
Wang stressed the need for India and China to step up strategic communication and cooperation.
 
"China and India are two major countries and neighbours. They are also two emerging market countries and are each other's emerging partners.
 
"In this sense, it's very important for the two countries to work together to increase strategic communications even the geopolitical trust and strategic cooperation on international and regional issues."
 
Beijing's latest move to shield Azhar has tested Sino-Indian ties that had been on an upswing after Modi and Xi's ice-breaking meeting last year.
 
Gokhale's visit comes at a time when Beijing is facing mounting international pressure to declare Azhar an international terrorist.
 
It is to be seen if India's opposition to the Belt and Road forum will figure in the talks.
 
India is likely to skip for the second straight year China's Belt and Road forum, a mega event that Beijing claims will be attended by the heads of 37 countries and over 100 international organisations.
 
The Belt and Road is a trillion-dollar project that aims to connect Asia, Africa and Europe through a network of highways, sea lanes and ports.
 
India opposes its key artery, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), as it cuts through the disputed part of Kashmir held by Islamabad.
 
In 2017, India had boycotted the launch of the forum over the same issue.
 
In a press conference on April 20, Wang appealed to India again to shed its inhibition on the CPEC, saying the project has nothing to do with the Kashmir issue.
 
He said India joining the Belt and Road project will be a good choice for it.
 
IANS
 

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5 Indians among 290 dead in Sri Lanka bombings

Five Indians are among the 290 people who have been confirmed dead in the deadly Easter Sunday suicide bombings in Sri Lanka, as police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera on Monday confirmed that 24 suspects have been arrested for their involvement in the island's bloodiest attacks in a decade.
 
Sri Lanka bombings death toll passes 200
Five Indians are among the 290 people who have been confirmed dead in the deadly Easter Sunday suicide bombings in Sri Lanka, as police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera on Monday confirmed that 24 suspects have been arrested for their involvement in the island's bloodiest attacks in a decade.
 
On Monday morning, the Indian High Commission in Colombo confirmed the names of two more Indian victims.
 
"We sadly confirm the deaths of the following two individuals in the blasts yesterday: K.G. Hanumantharayappa, M. Rangappa," the Mission said in a tweet.
 
The Monday morning tweet came after Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Sunday night had confirmed the names of three other Indian nationals -- Lakshmi, Narayan Chandrashekhar and Ramesh.
 
Meanwhile, Gunasekera also said that 500 people were injured and were admitted in various hospitals and medical facilities.
 
He said that the police has seized a van and its driver who is suspected of transporting the suspects into Colombo and also raided a safe house used by the attackers. 
 
No group has yet claimed direct responsibility yet.
 
The first of the eight blasts took place on Sunday morning in three luxury hotels -- Cinnamon Grand, Shangri-la, Kingsbury -- in the heart of Colombo and in a church each in Colombo, Negombo, 30 km from here, and in the Tamil-majority Batticaloa town in the island's east that was once a Tamil Tiger stronghold.
 
Later in the afternoon, another blast hit a guest house near the zoo in Dehiwala in Colombo, killing two persons, and a housing complex at Dematogoda in the city leaving three policemen dead.
 
IANS
 

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4 Indians among 207 killed in Sri Lanka mayhem

At least 207 people were killed and 469 injured when eight suicide bombings, mainly in Colombo, ravaged Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday in the island's bloodiest day since the civil war ended a decade ago. Four Indians, two of them women. were among the dead while some others had a narrow escape.
 
Sri Lanka bombings death toll passes 200
At least 207 people were killed and 469 injured when eight suicide bombings, mainly in Colombo, ravaged Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday in the island's bloodiest day since the civil war ended a decade ago. Four Indians, two of them women. were among the dead while some others had a narrow escape.
 
Sri Lanka declared a nationwide curfew and placed curbs on social media to kill fake news after suicide bombers carried out a string of well-planned explosions targeting luxury hotels and Catholic churches in Colombo and elsewhere, triggering international outrage.
 
The first of the eight blasts took place in the morning in three luxury hotels in the heart of Colombo and in a church each in Colombo, Negombo, 30 km from here, and in the Tamil-majority Batticaloa town in the island's east that was once a Tamil Tiger stronghold.
 
In the afternoon, another blast hit a guest house near the zoo in Dehiwala in Colombo, killing two persons, and a housing complex at Dematogoda in the city leaving three policemen dead.
 
A total of 27 foreigners, including four Indians and also people from Turkey, the US, Britain, the Netherlands, Portugal and China, perished in the mayhem. 
 
Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, quoting official reports from Colombo, identified the Indians as Lakshmi, Narayan Chandrashekhar and Ramesh. 
 
The fourth was a Kerala woman holidaying in Colombo. P.S. Razeena, 58, had arrived there along with her husband to meet their relatives engaged in business there and was staying at one of the three hotels targeted by suicide bombers.
 
Razeena and her husband, who hail from Kerala's Kasargode, lived in Dubai. 
 
Many Indians, including noted Indian Tamil actress Radikaa Sarathkumar and a party of businessmen from Andhra Pradesh's Anantpur, had a narrow escape. Radikaa tweeted that she was staying at the Cinnamon Grand, located near the official residence of the Sri Lankan Prime Minister, and had just left it prior to the blast there. 
 
Authorities said a total of eight suspects had been arrested but gave no further details. 
 
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Officials and survivors painted a horrific picture of what happened.
 
Kieran Arasaratnam, who was staying in the Shangri-La, one of the three hotels, said he heard what sounded like a "thunder", forcing him to sprint all the way down from the 17th floor, BBC reported.
 
He saw the second floor restaurant gutted and realized he was alive only because he delayed his breakfast.
 
In Cinnamon Grand, survivors said that a suicide bomber had joined the line at the breakfast buffet and detonate the explosives.
 
Member of European Parliament, Nirj Deva said he had just arrived at one of the hotels after the blast and saw scenes of carnage all around.
 
The bloodbath started around 8.30 a.m. at the St Anthony's Shrine at Kochchikade in Colombo during Easter Mass where one man said he heard a booming explosion and saw virtually the whole roof come crashing down. "We just ran," he told the media.
 
The other places hit were St Sebastian's Church in Negombo, the Zion Church in Batticaloa, 250 km east of Colombo, and the Cinnamon Grand and Kingsbury Hotels.
 
Photos and videos circulating on social media showed the roof of one church had been almost fully blown away in the blast. The floor was littered with a mixture of roof tiles, splintered wood and blood, media reports said.
 
Many people could be seen covered in blood. Some helped those with more serious injuries. Ambulances, their sirens wailing, rushed the dead and seriously injured to hospitals -- once a familiar sight in Colombo.
 
Minister of Economic Reforms Harsha de Silva described the carnage. "Horrible scenes. I saw many body parts strewn all over," he said.
 
No one claimed responsibility for the bloodbath but AFP reported that Sri Lankan Police chief Pujuth Jayasundara had issued a nationwide alert 10 days ago warning that suicide bombers planned to hit prominent Catholic churches.
 
The Daily Mirror newspaper quoted the findings of initial investigations as saying that the first six major blasts were caused by suicide bombers and added that two of them had checked a day earlier into the Shangri-La Hotel.
 
It said that the investigators who broke into Room No 616 "had recovered materials used by radical" Islamist extremists. The Mirror said it was not clear if the bombers were Sri Lankans or foreigners.
 
The government declared a state of emergency, imposed indefinite curfew across the nation and temporarily blocked Facebook and Instagram to curb the spread of fake news. All schools were ordered shut until Tuesday. 
 
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke on phone with Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, called the terror attacks "cold-blooded and pre-planned" barbarism and offered all help from New Delhi.
 
Condemnation was fast and swift from across the world: China, the US, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pope Francis, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, Ireland, Britain, Germany, Singapore, the Philippines, Israel, Afghanistan, Malaysia, Egypt, New Zealand, Canada and the European Commission denounced the killings.
 
A Sri Lankan Tamil journalist, V. Thanabalasingham, told IANS that a sense of panic had gripped Colombo, which had given up its overbearing security cover ever since the Tamil Tigers were crushed in May 2009, leading to a decade of peace.
 
President Sirisena urged the public to be calm and cooperate with the authorities to conduct swift investigations into the blasts. "I am shocked and saddened by the situation."
 
AFP said a foreign intelligence agency had reported that the National Thowheeth Jama'ath (NTJ), a Muslim group blamed for attacks on Buddhist shrines, was planning to carry out suicide attacks against prominent churches as well as the Indian High Commission in Colombo.
 
Although Christians form only around 7 per cent of the Sri Lanka's mainly Buddhist population, they are found both in the majority Sinhalese and minority Tamil communities. 
 

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3 Indians among 207 killed in Sri Lanka mayhem

At least 207 people were killed and 469 injured when eight suicide bombings, mainly in Colombo, ravaged Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday in the island's bloodiest day since the civil war ended a decade ago. Three Indians were among the dead.
 
Death toll rises after Easter blasts in Sri Lanka
At least 207 people were killed and 469 injured when eight suicide bombings, mainly in Colombo, ravaged Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday in the island's bloodiest day since the civil war ended a decade ago. Three Indians were among the dead.
 
Sri Lanka declared a nationwide curfew and placed curbs on social media to kill fake news after suicide bombers carried out a string of well-planned explosions targeting luxury hotels and Catholic churches in Colombo and elsewhere, triggering international outrage.
 
The first of six blasts took place in the morning in three luxury hotels in the heart of Colombo and in a church each in Colombo, Negombo, 30 km from here, and in the Tamil-majority Batticaloa town in the island's east that was once a Tamil Tiger stronghold.
 
In the afternoon, another blast hit a guest house near the zoo in Dehiwala in Colombo, killing two persons, and a housing complex at Dematogoda in the city leaving three policemen dead.
 
A total of 27 foreigners, including three Indians and also people from Turkey, the US, Britain, the Netherlands, Portugal and China, perished in the mayhem. 
 
Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, quoting official reports from Colombo, identified the Indians as Lokashini, Narayan Chandrashekhar and Ramesh.
 
Authorities said a total of seven suspects had been arrested but gave no further details. 
 
Officials and survivors painted a horrific picture of what happened.
 
Kieran Arasaratnam, who was staying in the Shangri-La, one of the three hotels, said he heard what sounded like a "thunder", forcing him to sprint all the way down from the 17th floor, BBC reported.
 
He saw the second floor restaurant gutted and realized he was alive only because he delayed his breakfast.
 
The bloodbath started around 8.30 a.m. at the St Anthony's Shrine at Kochchikade in Colombo during Easter Mass where one man said he heard a booming explosion and saw virtually the whole roof come crashing down. "We just ran," he told the media.
 
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The other places hit were St Sebastian's Church in Negombo, the Zion Church in Batticaloa, 250 km east of Colombo, the Cinnamon Grand hotel, located near the official residence of the Prime Minister, and Kingsbury Hotel.
 
Photos and videos circulating on social media showed the roof of one church had been almost fully blown away in the blast. The floor was littered with a mixture of roof tiles, splintered wood and blood, media reports said.
 
Many people could be seen covered in blood. Some helped those with more serious injuries. Ambulances, their sirens wailing, rushed the dead and seriously injured to hospitals -- once a familiar sight in Colombo.
 
Minister of Economic Reforms Harsha de Silva described the carnage. "Horrible scenes. I saw many body parts strewn all over," he said.
 
No one claimed responsibility for the bloodbath but AFP reported that Sri Lankan Police chief Pujuth Jayasundara had issued a nationwide alert 10 days ago warning that suicide bombers planned to hit prominent Catholic churches.
 
The Daily Mirror newspaper quoted the findings of initial investigations as saying that the first six major blasts were caused by suicide bombers and added that two of them had checked a day earlier into the Shangri-La Hotel.
 
It said that the investigators who broke into Room No 616 "had recovered materials used by radical" Islamist extremists. The Mirror said it was not clear if the bombers were Sri Lankans or foreigners.
 
The government declared a state of emergency, imposed indefinite curfew across the nation and temporarily blocked Facebook and Instagram to curb the spread of fake news. All schools were ordered shut until Tuesday. 
 
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke on phone with Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, called the terror attacks "cold-blooded and pre-planned" barbarism and offered all help from New Delhi.
 
Condemnation was fast and swift from across the world: China, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Ireland, Britain, Germany, Singapore, the Philippines, Israel, Afghanistan, Malaysia, Egypt, New Zealand, Canada and the European Commission denounced the killings.
 
A Sri Lankan Tamil journalist, V. Thanabalasingham, told IANS that a sense of panic had gripped Colombo, which had given up its overbearing security cover ever since the Tamil Tigers were crushed in May 2009, leading to a decade of peace.
 
President Sirisena urged the public to be calm and cooperate with the authorities to conduct swift investigations into the blasts. "I am shocked and saddened by the situation."
 
AFP said a foreign intelligence agency had reported that the National Thowheeth Jama'ath (NTJ), a Muslim group blamed for attacks on Buddhist shrines, was planning to carry out suicide attacks against prominent churches as well as the Indian High Commission in Colombo.
 
Although Christians form only around 7 per cent of the Sri Lanka's mainly Buddhist population, they are found both in the majority Sinhalese and minority Tamil communities. 
 
IANS

Indian actress has narrow escape in Colombo

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Noted Indian Tamil actress Radikaa Sarathkumar had a narrow escape when she left one of the three hotels in the Sri Lankan capital just before it was bombed on Sunday.
 
Radikaa tweeted that she was staying at the Cinnamon Grand, located near the official residence of the Sri Lankan Prime Minister.
 
"OMG bomb blasts in SL, God be with all. I just left Cinnamon Grand hotel and it has been bombed. Can't believe this. Shocking," she tweeted.
 
IANS
 
 
 
 
 

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