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March 29, 2017 [GMT]
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Somali pirates release oil tanker and crew, officials say
[Friday 2017-03-17 17:00]

Somali pirates who seized a Comoros-flagged oil tanker earlier this week after five years without a major hijacking in the region have released the ship and its crew without conditions, officials said late Thursday. Security official Ahmed Mohamed told The Associated Press the pirates disembarked the ship, which was heading to Bossaso port, the region's commercial hub, with its eight Sri Lankan crew members aboard.

Somali pirates who seized a Comoros-flagged oil tanker earlier this week after five years without a major hijacking in the region have released the ship and its crew without conditions, officials said late Thursday. Security official Ahmed Mohamed told The Associated Press the pirates disembarked the ship, which was heading to Bossaso port, the region's commercial hub, with its eight Sri Lankan crew members aboard.

  

Mohamed said the release occurred after negotiations by local elders and officials with the pirates, who seized the tanker on Monday. The pirates were not arrested but instead were given passage to leave once they disembarked, he said. Naval forces from the semiautonomous state of Puntland and the pirates had clashed earlier Thursday after the pirates opened fire. The hijacking of the Comoros-flagged tanker Aris 13 was the first such seizure of a large commercial vessel off Somalia since 2012. International anti-piracy patrols on the crucial trade route had calmed such attacks, which once numbered in the hundreds.

Abdirizak Mohamed Ahmed, the director of Puntand's anti-piracy agency, confirmed the release of the ship Thursday night and said naval forces had boarded it to escort it to port. The European Union anti-piracy operation in the region had said the pirates had been holding the crew captive and demanding a ransom. The ship had been anchored off Somalia's northern coast, known to be used by weapons smugglers and the extremist group al-Shabab. Ahmed said the Puntland naval forces had been dispatched to the area not to free the ship by force but to cut off any supplies to the pirates.

Families of the crew members had tearfully pleaded for the men to be released unharmed. Somali pirates usually hijack ships and crew for ransom. They don't normally kill hostages unless they come under attack. The ship had been carrying fuel from Djibouti to Somalia's capital, Mogadishu, on Monday when it was approached by men in two skiffs and the tanker issued a call for help. The pirates told authorities that the only reason they seized the ship was in protest of the illegal fishing in the area that has threatened livelihoods, not for ransom, Mohamed said.

Coastal Somalis, including pirates who quit as international patrols increased and became fisherman, have complained of growing harassment by illegal fishermen and attacks by large foreign trawlers. They have blamed Yemeni, Chinese, Indian, Iranian and Djibouti-flagged fishing boats and trawlers, and some have threatened to return to a life of piracy to make money. Meanwhile, experts on piracy say some in the region have let down their guard as the number of hijackings decreased in recent years. In December, NATO ended its anti-piracy mission off Somalia's waters.

  
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Fort Railway Station bomb: Convict sentenced 20 years RI
[Wednesday 2017-03-29 19:00]

High Court today sentenced Kanakasabai Devadasan alias Nadan to a 20-year rigorous imprisonment over the charges of aiding, abetting and conspiring the 2008 Fort Railway Station suicide bombing, in which 12 people were killed and more than 100 people injured. Among the killed were eight students of the D. S. Senanayake College's baseball team and their coach. The attack was carried out by a female suicide bomber belonging to the LTTE, who got down from a train and exploded during rush hour on Platform 3 of the Fort Railway Station.



Court of Appeal orders CID to find three naval officers acquitted of TNA MP Raviraj murder
[Wednesday 2017-03-29 19:00]

Sri Lanka's Court of Appeal today issued an order directing the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) of police to find the three navy intelligence officers who were acquitted of the murder of Tamil National Alliance parliamentarian Nadarajah Raviraj. The court ordered the Director of the CID to provide information regarding the whereabouts of the three navy officers, who were acquitted in December last year by the Colombo High Court along with two others accused of the murder of former Tamil MP.



I am unable to protect those found guilty of killing media persons or sportsmen: MS
[Wednesday 2017-03-29 19:00]

President Maithripala Sirisena said today he was unable to protect those who are found guilty of acts that are not connected to the national security and those who are guilty of killing media persons or sportsmen. He emphasized that he would always take the fullest responsibility on behalf of any problem face by the officers, staff members and war heroes who fought against the LTTE.



Rajinikanth writes to Sri Lankan Tamils
[Wednesday 2017-03-29 19:00]

Actor Rajinikanth on Wednesday thanked Sri Lankan Tamils for their love and affection, days after he cancelled his visit to the island nation following opposition from pro-Tamil outfits. “I came to know your love for me through the media. I have no words to thank you. Let us think good and only good things will happen,” he said in a statement. Originally on April 9, Mr. Rajinikanth was scheduled to hand over 150 new houses built in Jaffna for Tamils by Gnanam Foundation of Lyca Group, a Tamil film production house.



Indian envoy briefs Chief Prelates on Modi’s Sri Lanka visit
[Wednesday 2017-03-29 19:00]

The Indian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka Taranjit Singh Sandhu today called on the Chief Prelates in Kandy and briefed them on the visit to Sri Lanka by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the UN Vesak Day celebrations in May. Taranjit Singh Sandhu said that he is hopeful the Indian Prime Minister will visit Kandy during his Sri Lanka visit. “My Prime Minister has a very high regard for Buddhism and he has a lot of respect for it,” Taranjit Singh Sandhu said.



Credible truth seeking mechanism to investigate alleged war crimes
[Wednesday 2017-03-29 19:00]

The government said yesterday that it would establish a credible independent mechanism to investigate alleged war crimes. This follows last week’s re-adoption of the UNHRC resolution on accountability issues in Sri Lanka. Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera, responding to questions at a news conference in Colombo said, "We will establish a truth seeking mechanism, which would be acceptable to all stakeholders."



Anandasangaree demands Sambanthan’s resignation
[Tuesday 2017-03-28 18:00]

The Secretary General of the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF), V. Anandasangaree in a letter to Leader of the Opposition, R. Sampanthan, has asked that Sampanthan submit his letter of resignation from the position of Opposition Leader, if the government fails to deliver on its promises to the Tamil people within a period of two weeks.



Murdering civilians under cover of war won't be condoned: CBK
[Tuesday 2017-03-28 17:00]

Former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga has said that anyone proven guilty of murdering innocent civilians under the pretext of fighting a war will be held accountable through a due process and that accountability means being fair on both sides of the conflict. She said this when addressing a workshop for the security forces to create awareness about the work being carried out by the ONUR and the reconciliation priorities of the government.



Sri Lanka wants to reduce China’s stake in strategic port deal
[Tuesday 2017-03-28 17:00]

Sri Lanka’s Government wants a Chinese company to agree to cut its stake in a strategic port project by up to a quarter, as part of a renegotiation aimed at blunting public and political opposition to the deal. After signing an agreement in December, state-run China Merchants Port Holdings had been expected to pay $ 1.12 billion for a 99-year lease on an 80% stake in Sri Lanka’s southern Hambantota port - part of Beijing’s ambitious plans to create a modern-day “Silk Road” across Asia.



War crime probes will hinder Sri Lanka's reconciliation: ex-defense secretary
[Tuesday 2017-03-28 17:00]

War crime investigations backed by some Western countries and the United Nations will exacerbate the differences between Sri Lanka's two main ethnic groups instead of uniting them, former defense secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa said on Monday. As defense secretary, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the brother of former leader Mahinda Rajapaksa, oversaw the defeat of the separatist, predominantly Hindu Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam (LTTE) by the government military in a 26-year war.



Separate Council for Muslims if North and East re-merged: Hakeem
[Tuesday 2017-03-28 17:00]

Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) Leader Minister Rauff Hakeem, in an interview with Daily Mirror, stressed the need for a separate council for Muslims if the government opted for re-merging the northern and eastern provinces.



Anuki Chamathka tops O/L rankings
[Tuesday 2017-03-28 17:00]

Anuki Chamathka of Visakha Vidyalaya, Colombo topped the island rankings at the GCE O/L examinations held last year, the Examinations Department announced today. S.M. Munasinghe of Mahamaya Girls' College, Kandy clinched the second place while R.M. Sugath Ravindu Sanwara of Ananda College, Colombo and Dimith Oshadhi Mirissage of Rahula College, Matata were placed third in the rankings.



BATTI AIRPORT TO OPEN NEXT MONTH
[Monday 2017-03-27 16:00]

The Batticaloa airport will be opened as a civil airport by the end of next month, Civil Aviation Authority, Director General of Civil Aviation and CEO H.M.C. Nimalsiri said. He said the airport has been vested with the CAA and steps are being taken to segregate civil and military operations so that the airport could be operated as a fully civil airport. It will be opened by Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation Nimal Siripala de Silva.



India to supply advanced light helicopter to SL
[Monday 2017-03-27 16:00]

As part of efforts to enhance defence cooperation and boost exports with friendly countries, India is in discussions with Sri Lanka and several Southeast Asian nations for the supply of Dhruv, the indigenously developed advanced light helicopter (ALH). Supplying defence equipment and providing assistance in setting up domestic manufacturing capability have become the new normal in India’s defence cooperation with regional countries.



Sri Lankan government removes duty imposed on items brought by migrant workers
[Monday 2017-03-27 16:00]

The Sri Lankan government has decided to completely remove the duty imposed on nine items being brought into the country by Sri Lankan migrant workers. The decision has been taken as a benefit to the migrant workers and in order to receive the benefit they need to be employed overseas at a least a year.



Sri Lanka Navy earns Rs 3 billion from Galle maritime security operations
[Monday 2017-03-27 16:00]

The Sri Lanka Navy has earned Rs. 3 billion to the Government from providing maritime security services within a year after taking over the services from the controversial firm Avant Garde Maritime Services. The Navy said in a statement that having taken over the duty of facilitating On-board Security Teams (OBST) 16 months ago, earned Rs 3 billion, only from the Galle operations center, for the Sri Lankan Government to-date.



Gota rejects ‘Death Squad’ claims
[Monday 2017-03-27 16:00]

Former Defence Secretary Gothabaya Rajapaksa has rejected news reports published by AL Jazeera and AFP that he operated a death squad with the intention of silencing his critics. On March 20, foreign news agencies reported that the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) had told the Mt. Lavinia Magistrate's Court that Mr. Rajapaksa led a top secret death squad, targeting journalists and dissidents.



Indian ship arrives at Colombo Port
[Monday 2017-03-27 16:00]

The hydrographic survey ship, INS ‘Darshak’ of the Indian Navy arrived at the Colombo Port yesterday on a training visit. The Commanding Officer of ‘Darshak’ Captain Peush Pawsey paid a courtesy call on the Commander Western Naval Area, Rear Admiral Niraja Attygalle at the Western Naval Command Headquarters and they held cordial discussions.



Wigneswaran Wants Role In Reconciliation Process
[Sunday 2017-03-26 17:00]

Northern Province Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran yesterday called for his inclusion or that of a member of the Northern Provincial Council in the reconciliation process. Speaking at an event attended by former President Chandrika Kumaratunga in Tellipalai, Wigneswaran said that the Tamils in the North have been agitating for their participation in the processes adopted for reconciliation.



Wimal admitted to Prison hospital
[Sunday 2017-03-26 16:00]

Parliamentarian Wimal Weerawansa, who has been on hunger strike inside the Welikada prison since March 22, has been transferred to the Prison Hospital this monring, after his condition deteriorated, his party said.


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