Arrests, new curfews in Sri Lanka after anti-Muslim riots

Curfew in Sri Lanka after attack on mosques Facebook Whats App blocked to curb violence

Heavily-armed Sri Lankan soldiers ride a motorcycle in front of the Jumha Mosque after a mob attack in Minuwangoda on May 14, 2019. Mob violence in central Sri Lanka targeting Muslim communities in March of previous year prompted the government to declare a state of emergency.

Responding to the killing of at least one individual and the spate of attacks against Muslim-owned businesses, mosques and houses in several parts of Sri Lanka, Amnesty International's South Asia Researcher, Thyagi Ruwanpathirana said the authorities must take steps to promote unity in diversity against the forces of hatred, those promoting fear and violence, and pitting communities against each other.

Seven of those arrested were young Sinhalese Buddhist men who reportedly led the mobs and directed them to attack particular homes, businesses and mosques.

Police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera rejected allegations that police had stood by while the violence unfolded. For more than a quarter century it was embroiled in civil war as Tamil Tiger rebels fought to create an independent state for ethnic minority Tamils.

Sri Lanka said on Wednesday that hardline Buddhist groups were likely to blame for a wave of anti-Muslim riots that swept the island this week in apparent retaliation for Easter bombings that were claimed by the militant Islamic State group.

Several news outlets report that rioters killed a Muslim man as they torched shops believed to be owned by Islam adherents and vandalized mosques.

Residents in the town of Kottampitiya recalled how a group of about a dozen people had arrived in taxis and attacked Muslim-owned stores with stones just after midday on Monday, with the mob soon swelling to 200, and then 1,000. One man was stabbed to death with a sword.

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Abdul Bari, 48, told Reuters his small brick shop had been burned down with a petrol bomb. Sri Lanka's police say they have either killed or arrested all those responsible for the bombings.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe also appealed for calm after the unrest broke out, especially in Kurunegala district targeting Muslims, and appealed to the public not to be swayed by false information.

Asked who was organising the attacks, Dissanayake said: "I think these organisations that Amith Weerasinghe, Dan Priyasad, and Namal Kumara (are heading)", referring to the three Buddhist extremists arrested on Tuesday.

"All police officers have been instructed to take stern action against the violators, even to use the maximum force".

He said it was terrible and frightening to witness the unfolding events as innocent men, women and children of the Muslim community are targeted in reprisal for the horrendous and beastly attacks by some extremists on April 21.

A police source said police had fired tear gas to disperse mobs in some places in North Western Province.

The flare-up is the worst violence in the three weeks since Sri Lankan Islamist bombers blew themselves up in four hotels and three churches on Easter Sunday.

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