President Maithripala Sirisena on Sunday said covering of faces to avoid identification will be banned from Monday, adaderana.lk reported.
“President Maithripala Sirisena took this decision to further support the ongoing security and help the armed forces easily identify the identity of any wanted perpetrators,” a press release from the president’s office said, according to CNN. This will essentially mean that veils, burqas and other types of garments that cover the face will be banned in the island nation.
The move came days after suicide bombers carried out a series of blasts at churches and luxury hotels on April 21, killing at least 253 people. The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the attacks. Two other local Islamist groups – the National Thowheed Jamath and the Jammiyathul Millathu Ibrahim – are suspected to have links to the blasts. They were banned last week.
Sirisena also sent Inspector General of Police Pujith Jayasundara on compulsory leave after the officer refused to quit his post, adaderana.lk reported citing sources. Jayasundara had resigned but never sent the letter, instead continuing to occupy his official residence. CD Wickremeratne has been appointed the acting inspector general of police.
Former Inspector General of Police NK Ilangakoon was appointed advisor to the Ministry of Defence. The president also named former Army Commander General SH Shantha Kottegoda as the new defence secretary.
Sirisena had on April 24 requested Jayasundara and Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando to resign for their failure to prevent the attacks. Fernando quit his post the next day.
Church services were cancelled across Sri Lanka as a precaution on Sunday. Worshippers, however, gathered to pray outside St Anthony’s church in Colombo which was one of the targets of the attacks.
Meanwhile, the police on Sunday said the father and two brothers of the alleged organiser of the bombings, Zahran Hashim, were killed during a gun fight between security forces and suspects in Ampara district on Friday, according to The Hindu. Hashim was earlier identified as one of the two bombers who blew themselves up at Shangri-La Hotel in Colombo.
A special task force also arrested the elder brother of two suicide bombers during a raid at Dematagoda in Colombo, reported The Times of India. Police spokesperson Ruwan Gunasekara said a German-made gun and two swords were seized from Mohamed Ibrahim Irfan Ahmed.