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Sri Lanka Easter bombings leader died in hotel attack, police say – National

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Sri Lanka Easter bombings leader died in hotel attack police say National

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The suspected leader of the militant group Sri Lankan authorities said carried out a series of Easter Sunday bombings died in the blast at the Shangri-La hotel, one of six hotels and churches targeted in the attacks that killed at least 250 people, officials said Friday.

Police said on an official Twitter account that Mohamed Zahran, the leader of local militant group National Towheed Jamaat known for his vitriolic extremist speeches on social media, had been killed in one of the nine suicide bombings.


READ MORE:
Sri Lankans urged to avoid mosques, churches amid warnings of possible car bombs

Police also said they had arrested the group’s second-in-command.

They said investigators had determined that the assailants’ military training was provided by someone they called “Army Mohideen,” and that weapons training had taken place overseas and at some locations in Sri Lanka’s Eastern Province.

Police also said that the attackers had worked out at a local gym and by playing soccer using their authentic national identity cards. They added that the vehicles used in the attack were purchased from a car dealership in Kadawatha, a suburb of Colombo, the capital.

They said that the operator of a copper factory who was arrested in connection with the bombings had helped Mohideen make improvised explosive devices and purchase empty cartridges sold by the Sri Lankan military as scrap copper.

WATCH: Pompeo says ‘every indication’ Sri Lanka attacks inspired by ISIS





Australia’s prime minister said earlier Friday that it had been confirmed that the Sri Lanka attackers were supported by the Islamic State group, which has claimed responsibility for the massacre, distributing video of Zahran and others pledging allegiance to the withered caliphate.

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena told reporters in Colombo that some 140 people in the island nation had been identified as having links to the Islamic State group, and that the Sri Lankan government has “the capability “to completely control ISIS activities” in the country.

“We will completely control this and create a free and peaceful environment for people to live,” he said.

Sirisena blamed Sri Lanka’s defence secretary, who resigned Thursday, and police chief, who he said would soon step down, for a failure to share weeks of information from international intelligence agencies about the plot ahead of time.

WATCH: Why did Sri Lankan officials ignore warning signs in the terror attacks?





Across Colombo, there was a visible increase of security as authorities warned of another attack and pursued suspects that could have access to explosives. Authorities had told Muslims to pray at home rather than attend communal Friday prayers that are the most important religious service for the faithful. At one mosque in Colombo where prayers were still held, police armed with Kalashnikov assault rifles stood guard outside.

Armed soldiers also stood guard outside St. Anthony’s Shrine, one of the three churches attacked on Easter.

Gration Fernando crossed himself when he looked at the church after walking out of his shop there. Fernando says he, like other Sri Lankans, was worried about further attacks.

There is “no security, no safety to go to church,” he said, adding that “now children are scared to go to church” as well.

Late on Thursday, Sri Lanka’s health ministry drastically revised down its estimated death toll from the coordinated attacks. A statement said “approximately” 253 people had died, nearly one-third lower than the police’s estimated death toll of 359.


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

The discrepancy was not immediately explained, but it fit a pattern of claims and counterclaims by Sri Lankan officials that have muddled the investigation.

In a predominantly Muslim area of Colombo’s Maligawatta neighbourhood, vegetable sellers laid their produce on the sidewalks near the mosques as women in long black chador shopped.

Leaders at the neighbourhood mosques said they planned still to hold Friday noon prayers. They said both the police and volunteers would be guarding the neighbourhood to protect the faithful.

Imtiyas Ahamed, one prayer leader, said he planned to preach about how extremists like the Islamic State group were not faithful Muslims.

“In Islam, it is not said to kill yourself and kill others,” Ahamed said.

WATCH: Security footage shows Sri Lanka bombings suspect enter targeted church





As he spoke, men one at a time came into the mosque to pray. They sat on their knees and bowed toward Mecca, the sweat from their brows falling on the mosque’s purple-and-grey carpet.

Abdullah Mohammed, 48, another Muslim from the neighbourhood, stood outside.

“Everyone is nervous,” Mohammed said. “Not just the Muslims. Buddhists, Christians, Hindus — everybody’s nervous.”

Ahamed also urged people not to think all of Sri Lanka’s Muslims were like the people who carried out Sunday’s attacks.

“After the New Zealand attack, we don’t think every white Australian is an extremist,” he said.



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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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