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Sri Lanka’s President Gives Military War-Time Powers To Hunt Down Bombing Culprits

Sri-Lanka’s president granted wartime powers to the country’s military Monday to pursue and arrest suspects linked to Easter Sunday’s deadly church and hotel bombings.

President Maithripala Sirisena made the announcement in the wake of a coordinated bombing attack that killed a total of nearly 300 people at three churches, three hotels, and other sites, according to The Associated Press. Sirisena’s office claimed that “international groups” were involved in the bombings, in addition to the local Islamic extremist group National Thowheed Jama’ath.

Government spokesman Rajitha Senaratne and Sri Lankan telecommunications minister Harin Fernando claimed earlier that intelligence officials received warnings from foreign intelligence agencies about an impending NTJ attack.

The scale of the bombing and Sirisena’s subsequent grant of war-time powers to the country’s military was a stark reminder of the country’s recent civil war with the rebel group known as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. Sri-Lanka defeated the Tamil Tigers in 2009 by granting the military war-time powers for a final offensive that began in January and ended in May, when military forces gunned down Velupillai Prabhakaran, leader of the Tamil Tigers.

The offensive, however, killed thousands of Tamil civilians, sparking calls from the European Union for an investigation into possible war crimes committed by the Sri Lankan military in their efforts to wipe out the Tamil Tigers and “eradicate terrorism” from the country.

The U.S. Department of State found such allegations to be true, and reported in 2009 that the Sri Lankan military had continued shelling during a 48-hour ceasefire,  shelled a Safe Zone, kidnapped young Tamil men and children and killed them, and summarily executed combatants who sought to surrender and other captives. The Tamil Tigers also committed atrocities, including using human shields and preventing refugees from escaping war zones.

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