Minister Amaratunga denies any knowledge
One underworld leader was killed in a shootout between a group of supporters of Tourism and Christian Affairs Minister John Amaratunga and STF commandos near the Ballapana Junction at Henpitagedera in Divulapitiya yesterday.
The deceased had been identified as Aluthapola Cooray, an underworld figure wanted for various crimes including extortion, police said.Seven underworld characters, including a former member of the Wattala Pradeshiya Sabha had been taken into custody, police said. The former PS member, Asiri Rodrigo alias Randiv, was a strong supporter of Minister Amaratunga, police said.
Minister Amaratunga, contacted for comment said:
“I know nothing of this incident. I cannot comment without knowing the incident.”
Police said the STF men had recovered two toy guns, one pistol and a hand grenade from the underworld gang.
The investigations revealed that the lethal items taken into the custody belonged to an underworld gang led by a notorious criminal known as Mapalagama Sanjeewa.
The STF commandos were deployed at a roadblock near the Ballapana Junction following a tip-off received by STF Commandant Senior DIG M.R. Lateef that an underworld gang would pass that location to harm a businessman in the area. The STF personnel identified the van the underworld members were travelling in towards Minuwangoda and ordered it to stop. The gangsters opened fire on the STF men in a bid to escape. The STF returned fire.
One police commando was his in the shootout but he was wearing body armour.After exchange of fire for some time, the underworld members ran from the van leaving behind their wounded colleague. The STF men gave chase and took them into custody.
The underworld gang had come from Gampaha to kill the business who had previously had underworld links, police said. Several weeks back, police took into custody a car with three T-56 assault rifles, but the underworld figures fled leaving behind the weapons and the vehicle. Police believe that gang. too, had been looking for the same businessman.
The seven underworld characters taken into custody at Divulapitiya would be taken to the STF headquarters for interrogation, police said.The STF Organized Crimes Unit is conducting further investigations.