Sri Lanka Emergency Law Bans Face Coverings

Catholics in Sri Lanka pray on a public road Sunday, one week after terror bombings killed more than 250 people in churches and hotels. (AP photo/Eranga Jayawardena)

AMPARA, Sri Lanka (AP) — Muslim women in Sri Lanka will no longer be able to veil their faces under an emergency law ordered by President Maithripala Sirisena that bans all kinds of face coverings that may conceal people’s identities.

The law took effect Monday, eight days after the Easter bombings of churches and hotels that killed more the 250 people. Dozens of suspects have been arrested but officials and the U.S. Embassy in Colombo have warned that more militants remain on the loose with explosives. Life on the South Asian island nation has been tense for people of all faiths.

The decision came after the Cabinet had proposed laws on face veils at a recent meeting. It had deferred the matter until talks with Islamic clerics could be held, on the advice of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.

Meanwhile, Sri Lanka’s military said a gunfight Friday night in Ampara District in the country’s east left 15 dead, including six children. And Sri Lankan police say a woman and a 4-year-old child found wounded after a deadly gun battle between police and militants have been identified as the wife and daughter of the alleged mastermind of the Easter bombings.

The Islamic State group has claimed three of the militants killed in the shootout.

Police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekara said the two wounded were identified as the wife and daughter of Mohammed Zahran.

Police also said Sunday that 48 suspects were arrested over the past 24 hours in connection with the Easter bombings that killed over 250 people.

Also Sunday, Sri Lankan police entered the main mosque of National Towheed Jamaat, one day after authorities declared it and another organization terror groups over the Easter suicide bombings.

Police entered the mosque, in Kattankudy in eastern Sri Lanka, on Sunday afternoon and stopped an interview with foreign journalists and officials at the mosque.

Later, a senior police officer dispersed journalists waiting outside, saying authorities were conducting a “cordon and search operation.”

Police then left, locking up the mosque just before afternoon prayers were to start.

Authorities banned National Towheed Jamaat for its ties to Mohammed Zahran, the alleged mastermind of the attacks.

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