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Tourism

Foreign Office advises UK citizens not to travel to Sri Lanka

Friday 26/April/2019 - 09:29 AM
The FCO have advised
The FCO have advised Britons not to travel to the country
The UK Foreign Office (FCO) has advised British citizens not to travel to Sri Lanka unless their journey is essential، following the deadly Easter Sunday bombings that killed 253 people and injured 500، the guardian reported.

In the immediate aftermath of the bombings، the FCO updated its guidance، urging British citizens in the country to avoid large gatherings.

But on Thursday it went further، warning about the potential for more attacks. “The Foreign and Commonwealth Office advise against all but essential travel to Sri Lanka، due to the current evolving security situation following attacks on 21 April 2019،” it said.

“Terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in Sri Lanka. Attacks could be indiscriminate، including in places visited by foreigners.”

Foreign Office officials told those at the briefing that the change to travel advice was not due to fresh intelligence but instead a necessary precaution.

Nine suicide bombers died in the attacks، and more than 75 people have been arrested in connection with the bombings. Islamic State has claimed responsibility.

But the Sri Lankan prime minister، Ranil Wickremesinghe، told Associated Press he believed militants were still at large. “We have rounded up a lot of suspects but there are still active people on the run،” he said. “They may be having explosives with them، so we have to find them.”

On Thursday، police issued names and photographs of five people they are seeking as the country remained on edge.

A state of emergency، night-time curfew and social media ban remain in place across Sri Lanka.

The FCO said while security has been stepped up، “the extent of any continued threat following the 21 April attacks remains unclear”. Eight Britons died in the bombings.

The FCO urged UK citizens who remain in Sri Lanka to be vigilant and “keep a low profile، avoid crowded public places، large gatherings (including religious gatherings and places of worship) and any demonstrations”.

It advised people to avoid travelling during periods of curfew، other than to or from the airport، and to keep in touch with family and friends، including informing them of travel plans.

The foreign secretary، Jeremy Hunt، said: “Our hope is that it will be possible to change this [travel advice] when the current security operation has concluded. My first priority will always be the security of British citizens living and travelling abroad.

“We all hope the situation will return to normal very soon، and that the Sri Lankan tourism industry is able to get back on its feet following the terrorist attacks.”

Tourism is a major source of income for Sri Lanka and the industry has only in recent years begun to recover after the 26-year civil war between the Sinhalese-dominated government and separatist Tamil Tigers. In 2009، there were 448،000 foreign visitors to the country، but since 2016، the figure has leapt to more than 2 million a year.

It has emerged one of the attackers، Abdul Lathief Jameel Mohamed، studied aerospace engineering at Kingston University in south-west London from 2006-07.

On Thursday، his sister Samsul Hidaya said her brother was radicalised after leaving Britain، while taking a postgraduate course in Australia.

“My brother became deeply، deeply religious while he was in Australia … He came back to Sri Lanka a different man،” she told Mail Online. “He had a long beard and had lost his sense of humour.”

Edited by: Yara Sameh

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