Aug 24, Colombo: Sri Lanka police stressed today that pre-dawn break-in by an armed gang into the house of Associate Editor of Sunday Leader and president of the journalist's union Mandana Ismail Abeywickrema was a robbery attempt.
Addressing a media briefing held at the Police Headquarters today, Police Media Spokesperson SP Buddhika Siriwardena said the gang of five armed men entered the house early morning around 3 am to rob the house and rejected the claims that it was a targeted attack on the journalist.
The police spokesman said the gang is suspected of many other robberies in Colombo and suburban areas.
The police arrived at the house while the attempted robbery was in progress and managed to apprehend four suspects. A fifth suspect was killed when the police opened fire at a suspect who seriously injured a police officer.
Three police officers were injured during the incident and one of them is in critical condition. They are being treated at the Colombo National Hospital along with the injured suspects.
Speaking to a local TV station the journalist said the robbers held a knife to her neck and threatened to kill her if she made noise. The robbers have said that it was a contract, the journalist said.
Meanwhile, the Government Information Department issuing a statement regarding the incident said that certain groups were trying to take political advantage out of the incident and denounced the attempts to distort the facts.
Media activists were quick to say that the robbery was an attempt to intimidate the journalist, who is the president of the newly formed Sri Lanka Journalists Trade Union, which stands for media freedom, and the Associate Editor of Sunday Leader, an English weekly that is critical of the government.
Media right group Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) yesterday urged the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay to address the Sri Lankan problematic record on press freedom. The UN official is to arrive in the island tomorrow for a week-long fact finding mission.