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Sri Lankan authorities detain 100 people in anti-Islamist swoop

Sri Lankan security forces stand guard during the search operation [Getty]

Date of publication: 26 May, 2019

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In a four-day operation targeting Islamist militants, Sri Lankan authorities have detained 100 people found in possession of illegal weapons or drugs.

Sri Lanka's military has detained nearly 100 suspects during four days of search operations against remnants of an Islamist group blamed for the Easter attacks that killed 258, officials said on Sunday. 

Some 3,000 military personnel were deployed in and around the capital as well as other key towns for cordon-and-search activities that began on Thursday, a military official said. 

In the first three days, security forces took 87 suspects into custody and they were handed over to police for further investigations, he added. 

"The number of people detained could be around 100 by now," a security official said, adding that almost all were taken in for possessing drugs and in some cases illegal weapons. 

A few were also detained along with video and other propaganda material of a local Islamist extremist group, the National Thowheeth Jama'ath (NTJ) which has been blamed for the April 21 bombings. 

Read more: For Muslims in Sri Lanka, Life Has Changed Forever

Islamic State (IS) has also claimed a role in the attacks. Several parts of the capital were also targeted in search operations by troops on Sunday. 

Similar raids were carried out in North Western Province, north of Colombo, where anti-Muslim riots this month left one man dead and left hundreds of Muslim-owned shops, homes and mosques destroyed. 

Security forces have arrested scores of suspects in connection with the April 21 bombings of three hotels and three churches, as well as over what appeared to be organised violence against the island's Muslim minority.

Last week, police arrested a parliament official on suspicion of having links to the National Thowheeth Jama'ath (NTJ). 

While authorities say the immediate Islamist extremist threat has been blunted, President Maithripala Sirisena on Wednesday extended for one month the 30-day state of emergency imposed after the suicide bombings. 

Sirisena said the move was to maintain "public security", with the country still on edge after the Easter attacks. Christians make up 7.6 percent and Muslims 10 percent of mainly Buddhist Sri Lanka.

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