Eastern Province Muslim militant groups responding to a government amnesty yesterday surrendered dozens of automatic weapons before a major crackdown by the authorities, Police said.
Militants surrendered their weapons to the mosques in the area before they were collected in bulk and handed over to the Police at a Kattankudy mosque, they said.
Some weapons including 17 T-56 rifles were handed over initially with more weapons due to be handed over later in the evening, Police said.
The July 2 deadline for the surrender of weapons was given by the authorities after state intelligence services identified 18 Muslim militant leaders who are wanted for various crimes.
Investigations also were underway to ascertain whether these militants had links with foreign organizations such as al-Qaeda and who was financing them.
The police and the army in the Eastern Province have been hunting for three main Muslim militant leaders identified as Police Faiz, Muthur Nizam and Ruhul Haq. They were believed to be instrumental in recruiting Muslim youths in the east.
As of now seven militants have been nabbed and large caches of arms and explosives recovered in a operation conducted by special teams from the Kattankudy and Eravur police stations.
In one such raid on a jihadi safe house, police arrested two suspects and recovered seven T-56 assault rifles, SMG weapons, anti-personnel mines, claymore mines, detonators and high frequency communication sets.
The Eastern Province Deputy Inspector General Edison Gunathilake told The Sunday Times they had asked all members of the militant group to hand over their weapons by July 2 or face tough action.
“We will give an amnesty to those who surrender their weapons in Kattankudy. We have the names of those involved in crimes such as extortion, abductions and killings. We also have information that they are linked to the underworld. We are determined to disarm these people and restore law and order,” the DIG said.