Sri Lanka re-introduces roads blocks, checks to combat gangs

Authorities in Sri Lanka bring back road blocks, vehicle checks seven years after war ended in effort to combat drug smuggling, serious crime

Photo by: AP
Photo by: AP

At least three people have been shot dead and many more wounded in Colombo in the past week in what police said was gang-related violence.

Sri Lankan police have brought back war-time road blocks and random checks on vehicles after violent shootings perpetrated by gangs in the capital, a police spokesman said on Sunday.

In the past week, at least three people were shot dead and many more wounded in Colombo, in what police said was gang-related violence.

Police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera said, more than 100 police stations in Colombo and its suburbs have been asked to erect snap blocks, a similar practice during the island's separatist war that ended nearly seven years ago.

"The objective is to prevent serious crime and drug smuggling as well as to catch those committing serious crime," the spokesman said.

He said the authorities prompted to take extraordinary measures after a surge in drug smuggling and shootings.

Unknown assailants had opened fire on a prison bus and wounded a suspect who was being taken back to jail after a court hearing in the capital last week.

On Saturday another suspect on bail was shot dead at home while a woman was shot and wounded outside the main prison in Colombo after she visited her jailed husband.   

At least 10 special units were also established to crack down on gang activity which has increased in recent weeks, Gunasekera said.

The newly elected government which came into power in January last year, removed the last remaining check points at the entrance to the former war zone as a sign of normality.

But, the new police measure re-introduced memories of war-time in Colombo when freedom of movement was restricted due to frequent stops for security checks.

At least 100,000 people were killed in the 37-year long separatist war which ended after a major offensive by the military. 

Sri Lankan authorities had removed road blocks and stopped vehicle checks after the end of the decades-long Tamil separatist war in May 2009.