Gunmen fire on buses carrying Muslim voters in Sri Lanka

Gunmen have fired on buses carrying minority Muslim voters in northwest Sri Lanka, police said, as an election official admitted failures to protect vulnerable communities ahead of presidential polls.
There were no immediate reports of casualties from the attack on Saturday, but a police official said the attackers had burnt tyres on the road and set up makeshift roadblocks to ambush the convoy of more than 100 vehicles.
Voting begun across Sri Lanka at 7 a.m. (0130GMT) Saturday, with nearly 16 million voters expected to cast ballots to elect a new president. The contest has seen an unprecedented 35 candidates, the highest number in the history of a presidential election. But despite the large number of contenders, the race is between two candidates: 70-year-old nationalist politician, Gotabaya Rajapaksa from Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) and 52-year-old ruling party candidate Sajith Premadasa of the United National Party (UNP).
The election comes just months since the Easter Day attacks that killed at least 259 people, and is considered a litmus test for the incumbent government of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. Rajapaksa, a former defense secretary who helped defeat separatist armed group LTTE in 2009, is using national security as his poll plank, reminding voters of the bombings, while his rival Premadasa is banking on a social welfare approach pledging to eradicate poverty, provide free housing and even sanitary napkins for women in an effort to address “period poverty.”–DT

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