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Sri Lankan authorities bring in more people — including foreigners — for questioning after bombings – National

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Sri Lankan authorities bring in more people — including foreigners — for questioning after bombings National

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Sri Lankan authorities swept up more people, including foreigners, for questioning on Thursday as they probed deeper into the Easter Sunday bombings, which killed 359 people in potentially the deadliest operation claimed by Islamic State.

Police said an Egyptian and several Pakistanis were among those detained overnight, although there was no immediate suggestion they had direct links to the attacks on three churches and four hotels that also wounded about 500 people.

WATCH: ISIS claims responsibility for Sri Lanka attacks as new video released purportedly showing 2 more suspects





An explosion occurred in a town east of the Sri Lankan capital, Colombo, on Thursday but there were no casualties, a police spokesman said, adding it was not a controlled explosion like other blasts in recent days and was being investigated.

A picture has emerged slowly since Sunday of a group of nine well-educated, home-grown Islamist suicide bombers, including a woman, who carried out the attacks in the Indian Ocean island country.

However, Sri Lankan and international authorities have also focused their investigations on international links to domestic Islamist groups – National Thawheed Jama’ut and Jammiyathul Millathu Ibrahim – they believed carried out the attacks.

READ MORE: Sri Lankan president asks top security officials to resign following deadly Easter bombings

Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attacks but offered no firm information to back up its claim.

The Islamist group released a video on Tuesday that showed eight men, all but one with their faces covered, standing under a black Islamic State flag and declaring their loyalty to its leader, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi.

The one man in the video with his face uncovered has been identified as Mohamed Zahran, a preacher from the east of Sri Lanka known for his militant views who officials believe was the attack’s mastermind.

WATCH: Sri Lanka PM believes attacks had Islamic State links





Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Thursday another of the bombers had lived in Australia with his wife and child on a student visa but left the country in 2013.

Morrison did not identify the man, although his family have said his name was Abdul Latheef Mohamed Jameel.

“I can confirm that the suicide bomber had been in Australia,” Morrison told reporters.

More people detained

Police said on Thursday 16 more people were detained for questioning overnight, taking the number detained since Sunday to at least 76. That number includes a Syrian national.

A police statement said one of those detained overnight was linked to a “terrorist organization” but gave no other details.

It said another was taken into custody after they investigated posts on the individual’s Facebook page and found what they described as “hate speech.”

“It was related to the spreading and preaching of terrorism,” a police spokesman said.

Others have also been caught up in the broader crackdown.

Police said they detained an Egyptian who was found not to have a valid visa or passport. The man taught Arabic in a school about 70 km (45 miles) from the capital, Colombo, and had been living in Sri Lanka for more than seven years.

A police spokesman also said that a group of Pakistanis had also been detained among an unspecified number of foreign nationals for overstaying their visas.

READ MORE: Militant group blamed in Sri Lanka attacks called for non-Muslims to be ‘eliminated’

The bombings shattered the relative calm that has existed in Buddhist-majority Sri Lanka since a civil war against mostly Hindu, ethnic Tamil separatists ended 10 years ago, and raised fears of a return to sectarian violence.

President Maithripala Sirisena will meet representatives of different faiths later on Thursday to address concerns of a sectarian backlash.

Sri Lanka’s 22 million people include minority Christians, Muslims and Hindus. Until now, Christians had largely managed to avoid the worst of the island’s conflict and communal tensions.

WATCH: April 23 — Security footage shows Sri Lanka bombings suspect enter targeted church





Hundreds of Muslims have fled the Negombo region on Sri Lanka’s west coast since scores of worshippers were killed in the bombing of the St. Sebastian church there on Sunday. Communal tensions have since flared.

Hundreds of Pakistani Muslims fled the port city on Wednesday, crammed into buses organized by community leaders after threats of revenge.

“Because of the bomb blasts and explosions that have taken place here, the local Sri Lankan people have attacked our houses,” Adnan Ali, a Pakistani Muslim, told Reuters as he prepared to board a bus.

Sri Lankan officials have said they believed the bombings were carried out in retaliation for the March 15 attacks by a lone gunman on two mosques in New Zealand that killed 50 people.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said she has seen no evidence to support that claim.

Most of the Easter Sunday victims were Sri Lankans, although authorities have confirmed at least 38 foreigners were also killed. These included British, U.S., Australian, Turkish, Indian, Chinese, Danish, Dutch and Portuguese nationals.



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FOREIGN NEWS

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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