COLOMBO: Sri Lanka’s president extended on Wednesday by a further month the state of emergency imposed immediately after the Easter Sunday Islamist bombings that killed 258 people, reports AFP.
Maithripala Sirisena issued a proclamation saying that the emergency, which gives sweeping powers to security forces to arrest and detain suspects for long periods of time, would continue for another 30 days, citing “public security”.Sri Lanka initially imposed the emergency to crack down on local jihadists blamed for the April 21 bombings that targeted three churches and three luxury hotels. Three weeks after the suicide bombings, anti-Muslim riots broke out in a province north of the capital in a backlash against the attacks. At least one Muslim man was killed and hundreds of Muslim-owned shops and homes were destroyed. Several mosques were also vandalised.
The police and the military say they have arrested scores of suspects, both in connection with the bombings and over what appeared to be organised violence against the Muslim minority.
The authorities say they have neutralised the jihadist threat after arresting almost all those involved in the Easter attacks, but troops and police remain on alert across the island. Christians make up 7.6 percent and Muslims 10 percent of mainly Buddhist Sri Lanka.
Meanwhile, Sri Lankan social networks saw a surge in fake news after the Easter suicide bombings a month ago despite an official social media blackout, highlighting the inability of governments to contain disinformation, experts said, reports AFP.
A nine-day ban on platforms including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and WhatsApp was introduced following the Islamic State-claimed attacks on churches and hotels on April 21 which killed 258 people and wounded nearly 500.
Many anxious social media users switched to virtual private networks (VPNs) or the TOR network to bypass the order and keep communication open with friends and relatives as the extent of the carnage became clear.But for others, the tools were a means to spread confusion and vitriol as the island struggled to come to terms with one of the worst terror attacks in its history.
Sanjana Hattotuwa, who monitors social media for fake news at the Centre for Policy Alternatives in Colombo, said the government blackout had failed to prevent “engagement, production, sharing and discussion of Facebook content”, and that he had seen a significant increase in false reports.
AFP has published half a dozen fact-checks debunking false claims made on Facebook and Twitter after the Easter attacks.
Some had dug out photos of coffins and funerals from Sri Lanka’s brutal decades-long civil war and claimed they showed victims of the blasts.