The Sri Lankan government on Tuesday lifted a temporary ban on several social media networks that was imposed in the aftermath of the terror attacks on Easter Sunday on April 21, The New York Times reported. The ban was imposed on Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, YouTube and Viber.
In a statement, the government called on the public to use social media responsibly “even though the ban is lifted”, due to the prevailing situation in the country.
A group of 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.
President Maithripala Sirisena on Sunday had said that covering of faces to avoid identification will be banned from Monday. This will essentially mean that veils, burqas and other types of garments that cover the face will be banned in the island nation.
Security forces in the country said they were maintaining a high level of alert ahead of the start of Ramadan. United States ambassador to Sri Lanka Alaina Teplitz on Tuesday said they believe active planning is under way for more attacks.
“We certainly have reason to believe that the active attack group has not been fully rendered inactive,” Teplitz told Reuters. The US Federal Bureau of Investigation is assisting Sri Lankan authorities in the investigations into the Easter Sunday attacks.
Meanwhile, the Sri Lankan Police said that three suspects were arrested and a van was seized in connection with the explosions, PTI reported. Last week, all police stations in Colombo were placed on high alert as police were hunting for an unidentified container truck and van which was believed to be carrying explosives. A total of 106 suspects have been so far arrested.
Speaking to CNN on Monday, Sirisena said the bombers of Easter Sunday attacks had “very clear links” to the Islamic State group. The terror group had provided training to the perpetrators of the attacks in Sri Lanka, he claimed, adding that the links between the Islamic State group and extremists in Sri Lanka could be traced back 15 years.
Pubic mass services in certain Catholic churches in Colombo would resume from May 5, PTI reported, citing Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith. No bags will be allowed due to security measures and parishioners will have to confirm their identity before entering a church, he said.