Four armed men who broke into journalist and media activist Mandana Ismail Abeywickrema’s home early this morning are in police custody after one intruder was shot dead by police during an altercation.
The men had held Abeywickrema and gunpoint and threatened to abduct her, saying they were carrying out a contract for someone who was an enemy, the journalists told reporters earlier today. “They said their orders were to rob the house and abduct -me,” Abeywickrema said.
She said the five intruders were armed with knives and had ransacked cupboards looking for money and valuables. The intruders woke up the journalist’s parents and her daughter, to ask them probing questions, Abeywickrema said.
She said she spoke to the intruders throughout the incident, urging them to take whatever they desired from the house but refrain from harming her parents or child. At one point, the intruders argued among themselves, saying they had “wasted enough time” at her home.
Mandana Ismail Abeywickrema is Associate Editor of the Sunday Leader newspaper and recently formed a trade union for journalists and assumed its presidency. Her husband Romesh Abeywickrema who was not present in the house during the intrusion, called the police emergency from outside the residence when he saw the lights on upon his arrival. When the police walked into the residence, the intruders were still inside.
Three of the intruders were injured in the shoot out with police, with one of them in critical condition at the National Hospital, police said.
Police Spokesman Buddhika Siriwadane said three police officers had been injured when the intruders attacked them with knives.
One intruder was shot while all the others remain in police custody following the incident.
Police have persisted in calling the intrusion into Abeywickrema’s home an armed robbery, but the Free Media Movement has denounced attempts to play the incident down. The FMM said that the intrusion was part of an attempt to intimidate the journalist.
Inspector General of Police N.K. Illangakoon has called an urgent press conference regarding the issue.