General

Sri Lanka suspends police chief over Easter attacks

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka's president suspended the

chief of police on Monday and appointed a new defence secretary in a shakeup

of the shellshocked country's security services following the Easter Sunday

terror attacks.

Intelligence warnings from abroad alerting to possible attacks by Islamist

extremists were ignored ahead of the multiple bombings of churches and

upscale hotels on April 21 that killed 253 people and injured nearly 500.

Chief of police Pujith Jayasundara had refused to quit to clear the way

for a shakeup of the 85,000strong force, prompting President Maithripala

Sirisena to suspend him on Monday.

Senior Deputy InspectorGeneral Chandana Wickramaratne was appointed

acting police chief in his place, Sirisena's office said in a statement.

Separately Sirisena appointed on Monday a former head of the army, Shantha

Kottegoda, as the country's top defence official.

His predecessor at the ministry of defence and law and order, Hemasiri

Fernando, stepped down on Thursday in the wake of the attacks, which were

claimed by the Islamic State group.

General Kottegoda, 69, was forced to retire as head of the army in

December 2005, by thenpresident Mahinda Rajapakse.

Sirisena said an intelligence agency from a neighbouring country had

provided precise details of the impending attack 17 days in advance, but

local authorities had failed to take counter measures.

Official sources said the president was referring to information provided

by India's Research and Analysis Wing which apparently gleaned details of the

Easter attacks from a jihadist suspect in Indian custody.

The government has since declared a state of emergency and deployed

thousands of troops for search operations against Islamist extremists.

Security forces searched a Muslim burial ground in Colombo Monday

following information that explosives had been hidden there, but the troops

did not find any, officials said.

However, cordon and search searches were carried out across the country

and 13 foreign nationals overstaying their visas were arrested, police said.

It was not clear if the foreigners � 10 Nigerians and one each from

India, Iran and Thailand � were linked to religious extremists or the Easter

attacks.

Over 150 people have been arrested since April 21 and more than 15 people

killed in raids.

Source: Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS)