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Security put on high alert in Sri Lanka ahead of Ramazan

COLOMBO: Sri Lankan security forces on Tuesday maintained a high-level alert across the country after intelligence reports revealed that militants were planning fresh attacks before the start of the holy month of Ramazan.

The overall law and order situation remained calm as there were no attacks on Sunday and Monday but the security across Sri Lanka remained on high alert. Several suspected militants have been arrested since the April 21 attacks on hotels and churches that killed over 250 people, including 42 foreign nationals.

The head of the police security division had written a letter to the higher authorities that attacks were expected in coming days on Sunday by militants. A senior police official said the security would be further beefed up for weeks because military and police were still tracking down the suspects.

A government official said a document has been circulated among the key security establishments instructing all the law-enforcement agencies across the country to remain on high alert because more attacks were expected by the militants before Ramazan. The holy month is scheduled to begin on May 6 in Sri Lanka.

The government has also banned women from wearing face veils. The step was taken under an emergency law that was put in place after the Easter Sunday attacks.

Authorities in Sri Lanka suspect that the members of previously little-known groups — National Thawheedh Jamaath (NTJ) and Jammiyathul Millathu Ibrahim — carried out the attacks, although the Islamic State group has claimed responsibility. Official sources said Zahran Hashim, the founder of NTJ, was the mastermind and one of the nine suicide bombers and trained in India along with another suicide bomber.

Meanwhile, the government has lifted a ban on social media platforms. The ban was clamped to stop the spread of rumours after the Easter Sunday attacks. The ban on platforms such as Facebook, WhatsApp and Viber has been lifted with immediate effect.