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Indian police stumbled upon a detailed plot, but Sri Lanka did little to prevent attacks: officials – National

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Indian police stumbled upon a detailed plot but Sri Lanka did little to prevent attacks officials National

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While monitoring the usual channels, Indian police stumbled upon something extraordinary: a detailed plot for what would become the bloodiest Islamic State group-linked attack in South Asia.

Police were investigating suspected sympathizers of the withered caliphate in southern India when a name they had no record of surfaced — National Towheed Jamaat, the Sri Lankan IS-backed militant organization that authorities say conducted the co-ordinated Easter Sunday attacks on churches and hotels in Sri Lanka that killed more than 250 people.


READ MORE:
Sri Lanka gun battle between troops and suspected Islamist militants sees 15 bodies discovered

Indian police managed to break into the group’s communications and began tapping into the plot, according to Ajai Sahni, executive director of the Institute for Conflict Management in New Delhi.

“That is why the kind of detailing of the incident they received was very, very specific,” Sahni said. “They knew the group, they knew the targets, they knew the time, they knew the whereabouts of the suicide bombers, and all of this was communicated to the Sri Lankan government.”

Top Sri Lankan officials have acknowledged that some of the island nation’s intelligence units were given advance notice about the attacks — starting weeks ago and up until the morning of the bombings — but that little was done to prevent them.

WATCH: Sri Lanka attacks: Opposition says authorities failed to act on warnings for ‘political reasons’





Both President Maithripala Sirisena, who is also Sri Lanka’s minister of defence and in charge of national police, and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, who has been kept out of high-level security meetings since Sirisena tried to oust him last fall, said they only learned about the plot after it had been carried out.

“The fact is, it’s very, very specific information and that has been conveyed to everyone in writing. That is the action that was missing in some cases. That’s what we’re investigating,” Wickremesinghe said.

The first intelligence brief from India arrived April 4, more than two weeks before the bombings. It said a suicide terrorist attack was planned against “some important churches,” and listed six people likely to be involved.


READ MORE:
Sri Lanka Easter bombings leader died in hotel attack, police say

The deputy inspector of police shared the report with at least four security unit directors, including those responsible for “VIPs” and foreign embassies, along with a memo, urging the directors to pay extra attention to the places and people in their care.

India’s final intelligence warning came just before the Easter morning blasts, Sahni said.

Why the warnings went unheeded is the subject of intense public debate, with some blaming the dismantling of a system built by former strongman President Mahinda Rajapaksa for rapid response to rebel activity during Sri Lanka’s long civil war.

WATCH: Sri Lanka police release pictures of Easter attack suspects





For 26 years, the Tamil Tigers militants from Sri Lanka’s minority Tamil ethnic community fought for independence from the Buddhist, ethnically Sinhalese-majority state. Military forces under Rajapaksa’s brother, then-Secretary of Defence Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, brutally crushed them in 2009.

The current state minister of defence, Ruwan Wijewardene, said “weakness” within Sri Lanka’s security apparatus led to the failure to prevent the Easter bombings.

Sirisena, while campaigning for the 2015 election to defeat Rajapaksa, had stressed the need for fresh investigations of military officials, including intelligence officers accused of abducting and killing civilians, political opponents and journalists during the civil war.


READ MORE:
Sri Lankan officials lower bombings death toll to 253; cite difficulty identifying victims

Since then, some military officials have been arrested on charges related to their actions during the war and remanded in detention facilities. Court cases are ongoing.

But on Friday, Sirisena, perhaps with an eye toward the 2020 election, said that arresting military intelligence officials after the civil war had weakened national security. He promised a shake-up, asking for the resignations of both his secretary of defence and inspector general of police.

Some experts believe Sri Lankan security forces may not have given much credence to Indian intelligence because of its controversial role in the civil war.

WATCH: Sri Lanka president says he will change defence chiefs after terror attacks





India’s Research and Analysis Wing, or RAW, the country’s external intelligence group, initially supported Tamil separatists, training and arming the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelman in the 1970s. But after the group’s terrorist activities in the 1980s, RAW withdrew its support.

New Delhi made a pact with Colombo in 1987 to send peacekeeping forces to the island on its southern tip, and they ended up fighting the rebels. They were asked to withdraw a few years later amid allegations of abuses against Tamils. In 1991, Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated by a Tamil Tiger suicide bomber.

India questioned Sri Lanka’s heavy-handed approach to defeating the Tigers in the final months of the war, when tens of thousands of civilians were reportedly killed by government troops. Thousands more are still missing. Ethnic minority Tamils in the country’s north and east are still reeling from the effects of the war.


READ MORE:
COMMENTARY: Do we care more about the Notre Dame fire than the Sri Lanka attacks?

Indian security and intelligence agencies lost some of their “moral authority” with the Sri Lankans, said M.K. Narayanan, the former head of India’s external intelligence service.

“What really happened was India lost moral authority. India did not accept the policies that were being followed, so they lost a lot of support in Sri Lanka,” he said.

Genealogical and cultural ties between Sri Lanka and India date back thousands of years. According to folklore, the island’s majority Sinhalese are descendants of an Indian prince banished there 2,000 years ago.

WATCH: Sri Lanka president urges unity among political parties





The nation’s minority Tamils, meanwhile, are in part the descendants of more than a million tea and rubber plantation workers brought to Sri Lanka from southern India by British colonial rulers in the 18th and 19th centuries.

And India shares intelligence with its neighbours in part to keep them within its sphere of influence, Narayanan said.

Located just 23 kilometres (14 miles) off its southeast coast, India sees Sri Lanka as a bulwark in its military defences to ward off potential Chinese incursions. Soon after the Easter attacks, India deployed naval and coast guard ships along the narrow Palk Strait.



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Catholic Bishops react to military coup in Mali

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Catholic Bishops react to military coup in Mali

Contrary to the expectations of the people, the leadership of the Episcopal Conference of Mali (CEM) has termed the Tuesday, August 18 military coup in the West African nation as “regrettable” and “a big failure for our democracy” and called for a change of mentality if the country has to put an end to coups.

In an interview with ACI Africa Wednesday, August 19, made available to RECOWACERAO NEWS AGENCY, RECONA, the President of CEM, Bishop Jonas Dembélé said that the governance challenges the country is facing can be managed through dialogue.

“The military coup that led to the ousting of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta is regrettable because we are in a state of law and democracy. This is the second time that Mali has had a military coup as a result of the way in which the country is governed. It is a big failure for our democracy even if there were reasons for it,” Bishop Dembélé told ACI Africa.

“It is true that our country has serious challenges including bad governance, the poor management of the economy, corruption, insecurity and so on,” Bishop Dembélé said and probed, “Why is it that we Malians have not managed to engage in dialogue to be able to discuss these problems and face up to these challenges responsibly?”

“Our leaders, our people lack transparency, they hate those who speak the truth and advocate for good governance. This mentality must change for our country to move on,” the Prelate told ACI Africa August 19.

Bishop Dembélé who is a frontline member of RECOWA-CERAO urged the military officials “to ensure a return to democracy as promised but most especially ensuring the new leadership of the country put the people first and tackle the security challenges facing the nation.”

Asked about the role of the Church in the current crisis, the 57-year-old Prelate noted, “For us the Catholic Church in Mali, our role is to preach peace; our role is to preach dialogue. We shall continue in this path of dialogue for peace just like Cardinal Jean Zerbo and some religious leaders initiated.”

“In a state of law, power is not in the hands of certain individuals but to the people. The anger of our people led to this crisis, but we must work for peace and reconciliation in Mali,” Bishop Dembélé said.

He continued in recollections, “The Bishops in Mali have always issued messages before every election in our country sounding the alert and inviting the government to organize transparent elections, ensure good governance and better management of resources.”
“But it seems our messages are never taken into consideration that is why we find ourselves in this situation today,” the Local Ordinary of Kayes Diocese told ACI Africa and added, “If the opinion of the Episcopal Conference of Mali is needed to mediate in bringing back stability and peace in the country, then we are ready.”

As a way forward, the Bishop urged the people of God in Mali to “seek the path to conversion” and to accept dialogue in the spirit of truth and honesty.
“We all want change in our

country, but this change can only be possible if individually we seek the path to conversion. It is for Malians be they Muslims or Christians or members of traditional religion, to do an examination of conscience and accept personal and community conversion in order to engage in sincere dialogue,” he said.

The Malian Prelate added, “Now there is this coup d’état to demand change we really wonder where change should come from. As long as we don’t change our behavior, our mentality, we will always have a repeat of the current situation.”

On Tuesday, August 18, President Keita announced his resignation and dissolved parliament hours after mutinying soldiers detained him at gunpoint, Aljazeera reported.
“For seven years, I have with great joy and happiness tried to put this country on its feet. If today some people from the armed forces have decided to end it by their intervention, do I have a choice? I should submit to it because I do not want any blood to be shed,” President Keita said August 18 during the televised address to the nation.

Rev. Fr. George Nwachukwu
RECOWACERAO NEWS AGENCY, RECONA

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Harris accepts VP nomination

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Harris accepts VP nomination

Senator Kamala Harris formally accepted the Democratic nomination for vice president on Wednesday following a scathing speech by former President Barack Obama, who said the fate of the nation” depends entirely on the outcome of this election.”

Both Mr. Obama and Harris stressed the importance of voting, with Harris saying “we’re all in this fight together.” Harris sounded an optimistic note by highlighting her personal history and the promise of America, saying she was “so inspired by a new generation.”

“Make no mistake, the road ahead will not be not easy,” she said. “We will stumble. We may fall short. But I pledge to you that we will act boldly and deal with our challenges honestly. We will speak truths. And we will act with the same faith in you that we ask you to place in us.” She called Mr. Trump a “predator” in a speech that came after Mr. Obama issued his most forceful rebuke of his successor to date, saying Mr. Trump “hasn’t grown into the job because he can’t.”

“This president and those in power — those who benefit from keeping things the way they are — they are counting on your cynicism,” Mr. Obama said. “They know they can’t win you over with their policies. So they’re hoping to make it as hard as possible for you to vote, and to convince you that your vote doesn’t matter.

That’s how they win. That’s how they get to keep making decisions that affect your life, and the lives of the people you love. That’s how the economy will keep getting skewed to the wealthy and well-connected, how our health systems will let more people fall through the cracks. That’s how a democracy withers, until it’s no democracy at all.”

Mr. Obama and Hillary Clinton, speaking earlier in the night, both said they had hoped Mr. Trump would rise to the occasion. But they both stressed what they called his failures while in office, with Mr. Obama saying Mr. Trump has shown “no interest in treating the presidency as anything but one more reality show that he can use to get the attention he craves.”

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Mali coup leaders vow to hold elections as history repeats itself

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Mali coup leaders vow to hold elections as history repeats itself

The Malian soldiers who forced President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita to resign in a coup promised early Wednesday to organize new elections after their takeover was swiftly condemned by the international community.

In a statement carried overnight on state broadcaster ORTM, the mutinous soldiers who staged Tuesday’s military coup identified themselves as the National Committee for the Salvation of the People led by Colonel Major Ismael Wagué.

“With you, standing as one, we can restore this country to its former greatness,” Wagué said, announcing that borders were closed and that a curfew was going into effect from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m

The news of Keita’s departure was met with jubilation by anti-government demonstrators in the capital, Bamako, and alarm by former colonial ruler France and other allies and foreign nations.

The U.N. Security Council scheduled a closed meeting Wednesday August 19, 2020 afternoon to discuss the unfolding situation in Mali, where the U.N. has a 15,600-strong peacekeeping mission. Keita, who was democratically elected in a 2013 landslide and re-elected five years later, still had three years left in his term.

But his popularity had plummeted, and demonstrators began taking to the streets calling for his ouster in June.

West African regional bloc ECOWAS had sent mediators to try and negotiate a unity government but those talks fell apart when it became clear that the protesters would not accept less than Keita’s resignation.

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