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Sri Lanka Bans Face Covering In Public After Attacks

FILE: Sri Lankan Muslim women in Colombo.
FILE: Sri Lankan Muslim women in Colombo.

Authorities in Sri Lanka have banned women from wearing face veils in public, following a spate of suicide attacks by Islamist militants that killed at least 250 people and injured hundreds.

The office of President Maithripala Sirisena said he was using an emergency law to impose the restriction from April 29.

"It is a presidential order to ban any garment covering faces with immediate effect," Dharmasri Bandara Ekanayake, a presidential spokesman was quoted as saying by Reuters.

The niqab and burqa, worn by Muslim women, were not specifically named in the president’s order, but the measure is perceived as targeting the garments.

Separately, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe issued a statement saying he had asked the justice minister to prepare a regulation to ban the burqa.

Human Rights Watch condemned the ban.

"That needless restriction means that Muslim women whose practice leads them to cover up now won't be able to leave home," the group's Executive Director Kenneth Roth tweeted.

About 9.7 percent of Sri Lanka's roughly 22 million people are Muslim. Only a small minority of women wear the niqab or burqa.

Sri Lanka remains on high alert eight days after the attacks that targeted churches and luxury hotels.

Dozens of suspects have since been arrested in security forces’ raids, but officials warn more militants remain at large.

Based on reporting by Reuters, the BBC