One dead in Sri Lanka anti-Muslim riots following Easter terror attack

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

The interior of a vandalised shop after sectarian clashes in Minuwangoda, Sri Lanka, on May 14, 2019.

Muslims form almost 10 percent of Sri Lanka's 22 million people who are predominantly Sinhalese Buddhists, with a sprinkling of minority Hindus and Christians.

In Christian-majority Chilaw, people reportedly threw rocks at mosques and beat up a man after a shopkeeper wrote "Don't laugh more, 1 day u will cry" in a Facebook post that Christians deemed as a threat of a new attack.

Authorities said they have arrested more than 74 suspects in connection with the anti-Muslim attacks, including three Sinhala Buddhist extremists who had been investigated for similar actions in Kandy past year.

Police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera on Tuesday rejected allegations that police had stood by while the violence unfolded and said the perpetrators could face up to 10 years in jail.

Separatists rebels from the Tamil minority community fought a violent insurgency against government forces for decades until the civil war ended in 2009.

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On 13 May, the Government imposed a countrywide curfew following reports of widespread attacks against Muslim-owned businesses, homes and mosques.

The Islamic State terror group claimed the attacks, but the government blamed local Islamist extremist group National Thowheeth Jamaath (NTJ).

But Muslims in NWP remained nervous and stayed indoors Wednesday, after sword-wielding rioters killed one man late Monday while vandalising scores of shops and mosques.

"Our people are still afraid to go out", he told AFP by telephone.

Abdul Bari, 48, told Reuters his small brick shop had been burned down with a petrol bomb.

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.

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Military spokesman Atapattu said security forces were arresting small groups of suspected trouble-makers and handing them over to police.

In a televised address, Police Chief Chandana Wickramaratne warned that officers would respond to rioters with maximum force.

A police source said seven of those arrested for the violence in Kottampitiya were young Sinhalese men from nearby Buddhist villages.

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. "Mobs had attacked him with sharp weapons at his carpentry workshop", a police official told AFP. Security forces and police have been given sweeping powers to arrest and detain suspects for long periods.

Internet service providers said they have been instructed by the telecoms regulator to block access to Facebook, WhatsApp, YouTube and Instagram in a bid to prevent the spread of messages inciting violence.

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