COLOMBO: Sri Lanka has expelled over 600 foreign nationals, including around 200 Islamic clerics, since the Easter suicide bombings blamed on a local jihadi group.
It was stated by the Home Affairs Minister Vajira Abeywardena that the clerics had entered the country legally, but amid a security crackdown after the attacks, were found to have overstayed their visas, for which fines were imposed and they were expelled from the island.
The Easter Sunday bombings that killed 257 people and wounded nearly 500 were led by a local cleric who is known to have travelled to neighbouring India and had made contact with jihadists there.
The minister did not give the nationalities of those who have been expelled, but police have said many foreigners who have overstayed their visas since the Easter attacks were from Bangladesh, India, Maldives and Pakistan.
The minister said the government was overhauling the country’s visa policy following fears that foreign clerics could radicalise locals for a repeat of the April 21 suicide bombings, which targeted three Christian churches and three luxury hotels.
Sri Lanka has imposed a state of emergency since the attacks and given wide powers to troops and police to arrest and detain suspects for long periods.
House-to-house searches are being carried out across the country looking for explosives and propaganda material of Islamic extremists.