Escalating Sri Lankan anti-Muslim riots claim first life
Escalating Sri Lankan anti-Muslim riots claim first life
A man walks inside the Abbraar Masjid mosque after a mob attack in Kiniyama
15 May, 2019, 19:05
Sri Lanka has imposed a night-time curfew across the country amid an upsurge in anti-Muslim violence.
The country's North-Western province, where the worst violence flared, will be shut down for longer, police said.
"There are hundreds of rioters, police and the army are just watching".
In an address to the nation on Monday night, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said the unrest would hinder investigations into the attacks that targeted three churches and three luxury hotels.
Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attacks, which were carried out by a local radicalised Muslim group.
Sri Lanka Army Chief Lieutenant General Mahesh Senanayake warned anyone instigating violence and destroying property that the armed forces would not hesitate to use maximum force to stem any violence.
Sri Lankan authorities say most of the 150 people suspected to have been linked to last month's attacks have died or been arrested but many still fear that the government has not caught all potential militants.
Among those detained was Amith Weerasinghe, a man from Sri Lanka´s majority Buddhist Sinhalese community and on bail for his role in similar riots in March past year in the central Kandy district.
"If the racism rises up. and peace is disturbed the country will be destabilised", he said.
"The security forces have been given full powers to deal with those who violate the state of emergency and the islandwide curfew", he said.
Most of the riots were apparently members of the country's Buddhist majority.
A mosque official said the attacks were triggered when several people, including some Buddhist monks, demanded a search of the main building after soldiers had inspected a 105-acre (43-hectare) pond nearby.
Police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera rejected allegations that police had stood by while the violence unfolded.
He said police and security forces appeared to be overwhelmed and that by the time troops fired in the air to disperse the mobs it was too late.
Several dozen people threw stones at mosques and Muslim-owned stores and a man was beaten in the Christian-majority town of Chilaw on the west coast on Sunday in the dispute that started on Facebook, police sources and residents told Reuters.
"Don't laugh more, 1 day u will cry", was posted as a comment on Facebook by a Muslim shopkeeper, and local Christians took it to be a warning of an impending attack.
Sri Lanka has used temporary bans on social media in a bid to deter misinformation and rumours.
- NetBlocks.org (@netblocks) May 13, 2019As per the directive issued by the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka (TRCSL) Facebook, WhatsApp, Viber, IMO, Snapchat, Instagram & YouTube would be restricted with immediate effect until further notice.
Sri Lanka banned the NTJ and arrested over 100 people in connection with the blasts.
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