Lanka begins probe into riots, lifts curfew

12 March, 2018, 10:47 | Author: Elena Summers
  • Sri Lanka's Special Task Force soldiers walk past a damaged mosque after a clash between two communities in Digana central district of Kandy Sri Lanka

Sri Lankan troops and police stepped up security around mosques ahead of Friday prayers amid fears that anti-Muslim riots that have left three people dead could spread across the country. So far, about 150 people, including key suspect Amith Weerasinghe from the hard-line Sinhala Buddhist group Mahasona Balakaya, have been arrested, the police said.

Violence promoted by sections of Sri Lanka's mainly Sinhalese Bhuddist majority against a Muslim minority led to deaths and loss of property.

A curfew was lifted in the central district of Kandy, the epicentre of the violence, but soldiers remain on the streets, equipped with emergency powers to detain people to maintain law and order. According to the Sunday Times, it is unclear how long the bans may stay in effect and they may last until the government formally ends the state of emergency.

A large number of Muslim-owned businesses in the island nation remained shut in protest against attacks by mainly Buddhist Sinhalese, but some shops in the Muslim neighbourhood opened on Friday.

The announcement came after police spokesman SP Ruwan Gunasekara said yesterday that curfew will not be imposed in Kandy as situation has been peaceful.

The government of Sri Lanka ordered internet and mobile service providers to temporarily block Facebook and its subsidiaries WhatsApp and Instagram, as well as separate messaging service Viber, this week as part of a crackdown on what officials said was rampant online hate speech fuelling real-life violence.

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Police have already identified anti-Muslim messages being shared on social networks, including a video posted by a hardline Buddhist monk urging violence against Muslims.

However, the weekly religious activity went off without incident, authorities said.

Military officials said more reinforcements were sent to the area on Wednesday night to assist police who resorted to teargas to disperse rioters the previous evening.

There have been several communal clashes in recent years in Sri Lanka.

Sinhalese Buddhists are the majority ethnic group in Sri Lanka, making up 75 percent of its 21 million people.

"There is some fear among Muslims that they could be targeted ..." Last November riots in the south of the island left one man dead and homes and vehicles damaged.

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