The Criminal Investigation Department (CID) has arrested all suspects allegedly involved in the fatal shooting at Bloemendal in Kotahena on July 31, police confirmed today.
In this incident, the most serious one reported during the run-up to the August 17 General Election, two people including a female were killed and 11 others injured after several gunmen opened fire on a group of supporters of Finance Minister and then United National Party (UNP) Colombo District candidate Ravi Karunanayake. The assailants escaped in a vehicle.
Speaking at a media briefing convened at CID Headquarters today (September 7), Police Spokesman ASP Ruwan Gunasekara stated 16 suspects had been arrested in connection with the incident.
Eight of the suspects are currently in remand custody while eight others are being held by the CID under detention orders and are being questioned further, he revealed.
Police also revealed that an underworld leader identified as ‘Dematagoda Chaminda,’ aided by his brother ‘Dematagoda Ruwan,’ had masterminded the shooting. Chaminda is currently in remand custody over the killing of former Parliamentarian and Presidential Adviser Bharatha Lakshman Premachandra. Chaminda had allegedly masterminded the crime from prison and he is also expected to be handed over to the CID in the coming days for further questioning, ASP Gunasekara said.
Several firearms used for the shooting have also been recovered. According to police, a T56 weapon, a .38mm revolver and a 9mm automatic pistol connected to the crime have been recovered. In addition, police have recovered a stock of live ammunition used for these weapons. A Toyota Prius vehicle used by the suspects to carry out the shooting and escape was also found.
The T56 firearm, which was the main weapon used in the shooting, was recovered based on information provided by Sameera Rasanga Gunasekara alias ‘Sudu’, who had allegedly acted as the driver of the vehicle used by the suspects. He was arrested several days ago while hiding out at a rest house in Udawalawa, police revealed.
Four main suspects who were involved in the shooting itself are among the arrested. Aside from ‘Sudu’ who acted as the driver of the getaway vehicle, three men who carried out the shooting are also in police custody. They have been identified as Jude Priyantha Francis alias ‘Junda’, Kalutara Withanage Siriwardena alias ‘Abdeen Jagath’ and Ruwan Dheeraka Madushan Kularatne alias ‘Navy Ruwan’. The suspects were arrested from Kollupitiya, Negombo and Ratmalana respectively.
Police described the shooting as a result of a turf war between two rival underworld gangs. “They were actually initially one gang. However, there had been a split in the ranks later,” ASP Gunasekara explained.
According to police, the target of the assailants on the day of the shooting had been two members of the rival underworld gang; ‘Army Sampath’ and ‘Sanka’ who had reportedly been at the location where the UNP supporters were present. “However, they missed their targets and two innocent people were killed and 11 other innocent persons sustained injuries,” ASP Gunasekara noted.
When queried whether the two intended targets, who are underworld figures themselves, were in fact at the location, the police spokesman said they had not been able to conclusively determine that. He also ruled out any political motive behind the attack, stating this was a result of the dispute among two underworld gangs.