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Sri Lanka parliament official arrested in connection with extremist group

The Easter Sunday attacks killed at least 250 people [Getty]

Date of publication: 21 May, 2019

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Sri Lankan police say that a parliament staffer was among six people arrested in raids against a Muslim extremist group last week.

A Sri Lankan parliament official was among six people arrested for alleged involvement with a banned extremist group, Police said on Monday.

The unnamed individual is alleged to have ties with the National Thawheed Jammath (NTJ), a Muslim extremist group held responsible for the Easter Sunday attacks which killed at least 250 people. 

The official's arrest on Saturday came after the discovery of a NTJ training facility on a coconut estate, Police Spokesman Ruwan Gunasekara told reporters. Three suspects were arrested there, including the land owner.

A further two suspects were then arrested, providing police with information about the parliament staffer. The unnamed official was reportedly one of NTJ's main preachers and had travelled the island nation to spread their ideology.

Police say they have obtained a detention order to hold the man for 90 days for questioning.

Sri Lanka has been rocked by intercommunal violence since the attacks on 21 April, with mobs targeting mosques, houses and businesses owned by local Muslims.

Muslims make up around 10 percent of Buddhist-majority Sri Lanka's 21 million population and Christians about 7.6 percent.

Sri Lanka's telecoms regulator has enforced a social media ban affecting Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, YouTube and Instagram to prevent the spread of messages inciting violence.

A state of emergency has also been in place since the bombings and security forces have been given sweeping powers to detain suspects.

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