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One dead, thousands evacuated after explosions at Sri Lankan armoury

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COLOMBO — An officer has been killed and a thousand of individuals were evacuated after a fire and a series of explosions rocked one of Sri Lanka’s largest ammunition dumps where the army stores heavy weapons.

Local TV channels showed rocket propelled grenade shells and shrapnel that had landed in the middle of a road.

Explosions at the army camp at Salawa, 33 kilometers east of the capital Colombo, continued for more than five hours.

The cause was not immediately known and the Government has ordered an investigation by the police criminal investigation department.

“The fire started in a small arms store and spread. There were heavy weapons such as artillery shells stored in the proximity but the damage is still unknown,” Law and Order Minister Sagala Ratnayake told the media.

One soldier was killed and one injured in the blasts, an army spokesman said. But sources from two nearby hospitals said at least five people were being treated for injuries.

Pradeep Koddipily, spokesman for Sri Lanka’s Disaster Management Centre, said residents living in a 5 kilometre radius had been asked to evacuate immediately. Thousands of people have already been evacuated fearing explosions.

The chief operating officer for the Colombo Fire Brigade said firefighters could not reach the site due to the intensity of the explosions.

“None of the trucks have entered the camp as it’s not safe to go inside. We have not handled this magnitude of armoury fire,” Rohitha Fernando said.

Army spokesman Jayanath Jayaweera said the Salawa armoury was one of the largest in the island nation.

The main road in front of the camp, which thousands of workers take to go to and from Colombo, has been closed.

The Government ordered all schools and government offices in the area to remain closed on Monday.

Reuters

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Nirmala Panta rape, murder case : Locals protest after wrong suspect paraded

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BHIMDUTTANAGAR — Locals who were protesting against the rape and murder of Nirmala Panta of Kanchanpur’s Bhimdatta Municipality, have enforced shutdown in Bhimduttanagar Bazaar on Tuesday, protesting police’s failure to reveal facts behind the murder of 13-year-old girl and parading wrong suspect on Monday.

The District Police Office, organising a press conference on Monday,had made public Dilip Singh Bista (41), of Baghphanta, Bhimdatta Municipality-19 as Nirmala’s murderer.

Locals have shut down the market area stating that police were not being able to make public the true murderer(s) as they are not convinced by the findings of police citing that Bista was mentally unsound, according to the District Police Office.

Transportation has also been halted.

Bista, a resident of Khanna Chauraha area in Bhimdutta Municipality-19, was apprehended near the scene of crime on Sunday, according to police.

Police making public the wrong suspect has infuriated the locals and fueled the protest.

The agitators including various civil society organisations and human rights defenders have been picketing the District Administration Office and staging rally on the street mounting pressure on the police to reveal the facts behind the heinous crime.

Meanwhile, it had been learnt that police have fired rounds of teargas shells to contain the agitated mob.

Nirmala was found murdered in a sugarcane field on July 27, a day after she had gone to her friend’s home to get a notebook.

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