Sri Lanka lifts ban on drones imposed after Easter attacks
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — Sri Lankan authorities have lifted a ban on drones that was imposed after the Easter Sunday attacks that left 263 people dead in the Indian Ocean island nation.
The lifting of the ban comes amid a growing demand for flying drones from media institutions, foreigners, wedding videographers and photographers, and commercial advertising companies.
However, drone operations will continue to be restricted in dangerous and restricted flying zones. All civil drone operators will be required to obtain approval from the Defense Ministry to fly drones, the ministry said on its website Saturday.
The ministry said the ban was lifted on the instructions of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.
Authorities imposed the ban last May, citing security concerns a month after seven suicide bombers from a local Muslim group, National Thowheed Jammath, blew themselves up at three churches and three luxury hotels in the deadliest violence by Islamic State group-linked militants in South Asia. The attacks wounded about 500 people.
Sri Lankan leaders and the security establishment have been under fire for not acting ahead of the attacks on near-specific intelligence information on possible attacks on churches. Government leaders have acknowledged that some intelligence units were aware of possible attacks weeks before the bombings.
Following the attacks, national police chief Pujith Jayasundara was suspended and former Defense Secretary Hemasiri Fernando resigned. Both were later arrested and are being detained after the presidential commission found grounds to charge them with dereliction of duties and criminal negligence.