Security forces and police stepped up security measures countrywide as the Government issued an unprecedented warning of Tiger guerrilla attempts to disrupt festivities during the Avurudu season beginning next week.
The warning centered on possible attacks against civilians and declared that since April 7 claymore mine attack against a passenger bus in Vavuniya, the total number of civilians killed and injured this month has risen to 33 and 55 respectively. The Media Centre for National Security claimed the LTTE was carrying out these attacks in the wake of `imminent defeat in the North and East.`
Deputy Inspector General and Police Headquarters spokesman Jayantha Wickremaratne said that among the principal towns where security had been heightened, some with the help of the Army, besides Colombo were Kandy, Badulla, Nuwara Eliya, Galle, Ampara, Anuradhapura, Vavuniya and Trincomalee. He said security personnel had been assigned to long-distance trains whilst mobile telephones have been given to engine drivers to alert the authorities in the event of an emergency.
In Colombo and the immediate suburbs including Nugegoda and Mount Lavinia, Police teams used sniffer dogs to search buses before they left for their destinations. Police were also conducting searches on shops and buildings adjoining the bus stations to ascertain whether bombs were hidden.
Additional security precautions have also been taken to guard reservoirs, power stations, telecommunication installations and the oil refinery, DIG Wickremaratne said. As a precautionary measure hawkers in most parts of the city were asked to withdraw.
In the light of concerns raised over threats to the Dalada Maligawa, DIG (Central Range) Nimal Mediwaka told The Sunday Times extra security precautions had gone into effect in the hill capital. In Galle, Police set up additional check-points at entry and exit points to the southern city.
In an unprecedented move, the Media Centre for National Security yesterday publicized a set of emergency telephone numbers for public to ring in the event of an emergency. They were Police Emergency 119, Defence Ministry Emergency 118, Suspicious Aircraft Movements 116, Colombo Emergency 43333333 and the Bomb Disposal Unit 2434251.
This is the first time that the Government has taken such unprecedented security measures ahead of the Avurudu.