Sri Lanka has vowed to cleanse the country of radical Islam and has begun by raiding mosques, deporting hundreds of Islamic clerics, and banning the Islamic veil in the country.
Sri Lanka’s Home Affairs Minister Vajira Abeywardena announced the measures on Sunday, just weeks after the Easter Sunday jihadist attacks against Christians that left 257 dead in suicide bombings targeting three churches and hotels where Christians were enjoying an Easter brunch.
Sri Lankan authorities initially blamed the attacks on a domestic group known as National Thawheed Jama’ath (NTJ), but ISIS later took credit for the anti-Christian atrocities, releasing video footage of the founder of NTJ pledging allegiance to Islamic State “caliph” Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
Authorities have been seen publicizing measures they have taken to ensure it will not happened again, including banning Islamic face veils, raiding mosques, and deporting questionable clerics.
Breitbart report: The week after the bombings, local media revealed that 11 mosques near the NTJ headquarters outside of Colombo were known as “fundamentalist” or Wahhabist, referring to a radical Saudi strain of Islam.
“Considering the current situation in the country, we have reviewed the visas system and took a decision to tighten visa restrictions for religious teachers,” Abeywardena told the Agence France-Presse (AFP) on Sunday, confirming that Colombo had deported 600 people for potential ties to jihad, 200 clerics among them.
He said that none of those expelled had broken the law to enter the country but did have expired visas, which the government chose not to renew. While he did not specify the nationalities of those removed, local media reported that many came from neighboring India and Pakistan, as well as Muslim countries like Bangladesh and the Maldives.
“There are religious institutions which have been getting down foreign preachers for decades,” he explained. “We have no issues with them, but there are some which mushroomed recently. We will pay more attention to them.”
Sri Lanka is a majority Buddhist country that came out of a decades-long civil war between Buddhists and Hindus only a decade ago. Christians and Muslims have long been minorities of comparable size that attract little attention from authorities, making the island nation a soft target for groups like the Islamic State.
The Sri Lankan news outlet Ada Derana reported Sunday that the head of NTJ, Mohamed Zahran Hashim, had openly established a terrorist training camp near his mosque. Police found a ten-acre estate in Kattankudy, home to a significant Muslim population and the NTJ’s headquarters, where they say Zahran and his followers experimented with explosives. The estate next to that land, Ada Derana noted, was also owned by a man recently arrested in Saudi Arabia, identified as a cousin of Zahran’s.
While investigations continue, Christians have been unable to return to Mass on Sunday or send their children to school. Catholic clergy canceled Mass for the last two weeks, televising the service and urging believers to tune in. Schools reopened on Monday, but turnout was reportedly extremely low. In one school, Ada Derana reported, only 50 of the 3,000 students enrolled showed up for their first day since the attacks.