Sri Lanka brings back wartime measures after spate of gang-related shootings

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 06 March, 2016, 5:10pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 06 March, 2016, 5:10pm

Sri Lanka’s police re-introduced wartime road blocks and random checks on vehicles on Sunday following a surge in gang-related shootings in the capital, a spokesman said.

More than 100 police stations in Colombo and its suburbs have been asked to erect snap blocks, a common practice during the island’s separatist war that ended nearly seven years ago, police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera said.

“The objective is to prevent serious crime and drug smuggling as well as to catch those committing serious crime,” the spokesman said.

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He said there was a surge in drug smuggling and shootings that prompted the authorities to take extraordinary measures.

At least three people were shot dead and many more wounded in Colombo in the past week in what police said was gang-related violence.

Unidentified gunmen had opened fire on a prison bus and wounded a suspect who was being taken back to jail after a court hearing in the capital last week.

Another suspect on bail was shot dead at home while a woman was shot and wounded outside the main prison in Colombo on Saturday after she visited her jailed husband.

Gunasekera said 10 special units were also established to crack down on gang activity that had increased in recent weeks.

Sri Lankan authorities had dismantled road blocks and stopped vehicle checks after the end of the decades-long Tamil separatist war in May 2009.

Even the permanent check points at key entry points to the city had been removed several years ago.

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The new government which came to power in January last year removed the last remaining check point at the entrance to the former war zone as a sign of normality.

However, the new police measure brought back memories of wartime Colombo when freedom of movement was curtailed due to frequent stops for security checks.

At least 100,000 people were killed in the 37-year separatist war which ended after a major offensive by the military.