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Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka police make arrests, maintain curfew over anti-Muslim riots

A Muslim man stands in front of the Abbraar Masjid mosque after a mob attack in Kiniyama, Sri Lanka, 13 May 2019.
A Muslim man stands in front of the Abbraar Masjid mosque after a mob attack in Kiniyama, Sri Lanka, 13 May 2019. Reuters/Dinuka Liyanawatte
2 min

Sri Lanka said it arrested 23 people and announced it would maintain a curfew on Tuesday after a man was killed in escalating riots targeting Muslims following deadly Easter attacks.


Soldiers in armoured vehicles patrolled towns hit by sectarian violence on Tuesday, a day after angry mobs carrying rods and swords carried out arsons and forces Muslims to hide in paddy fields.

Police announced that a nationwide curfew would be imposed for the second night in a row to try and stop the violence that arose in apparent reprisal for Islamist bombings that killed 258 people around the island, mostly in the capital Colombo, on Easter Sunday.

The curfew had been in place all day Monday in North-Western Province (NWP), where police said a Muslim man in his 40s was slaughtered in his shop by a crowd carrying swords in the evening.

Elsewhere in the province, north of Colombo, attackers outnumbered police and set fire to Muslim-owned shops, vandalised homes and sacked the insides of several mosques.

Police said 23 people had been arrested for inciting violence around the island, including a man from the country’s majority Buddhist Sinhalese community on bail for his role in similar riots in March 2018.

Other parts of NWP and neighbouring districts saw similar arsons and attacks on Muslim-linked buildings and establishments, with some reports and eyewitnesses said outnumbered police and security forces stood by as mobs carried out attacks.

State of emergency

The riots come during the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan, and three weeks after Islamist bombings killed 258 people attending Easter services on 21 April.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe warned Monday evening that unrest would hinder investigations that targeted three churches and three luxury hotels.

Police chief Chandana Wickramaratne warned of stern action against rioters and that constables were given orders to use maximum force.

A state of emergency has been in place since the bombings, with security forces granted sweeping powers to detain suspects.

Internet service providers said regulators had banned Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, YouTube and Instagram to prevent the spread of messages inciting violence.

Muslims make up around 10 percent of Buddhist-majority Sri Lanka. Christians are about 7.6 percent.

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