Sri Lanka calls in troops to battle gangs

Colombo—Sri Lanka’s president announced on Sunday plans to have the military join a crackdown targeting criminal gangs in the capital as police re-introduced war-time road blocks following a surge in gang-related shootings.
President Maithripala Sirisena told a public meeting in Colombo that he ordered security forces to conduct joint operations with the police to dismantle crime networks responsible for a spate of shootings in Colombo and its suburbs.
“I have instructed the army and the police to jointly take all measures legally possible to crackdown on underworld gangs,” Sirisena said. “We can’t allow these criminals to disrupt the normal life of the community.”
Earlier in the day, the police said more than 100 of their stations in Colombo and suburbs had been asked to erect snap blocks, a common practice during the island’s separatist war that ended nearly seven years ago.
Police spokesperson Ruwan Gunasekera said there was a surge in drug smuggling and shootings that prompted the authorities to take extraordinary measures.
“The objective is to prevent serious crime and drug smuggling as well as to catch those committing serious crime,” he said.
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 Saturday after she visited her jailed husband.
Gunasekera said 10 special units were also established to target gang activity that had increased in recent weeks.—AFP

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