Sri Lanka imposes curfew amid anti-Muslim violence

Evarado Alatorre
May 15, 2019

On Monday, the Sri Lankan government enforced a countrywide curfew and blocked social media platforms to stop people inciting violence as communal violence spread to new areas in the island nation in the worst unrest since Easter Sunday bombings.

The 45-year-old man died shortly after admission to a hospital in Puttalam district during anti-Muslim rioting, which began Sunday in the area, a police official told AFP. 'Security forces are assisting police who have been ordered to use maximum force to contain the violence'.

Police fired tear gas at anti-Muslim mobs that were attacking mosques and Muslim-owned shops in a backlash against the community after the deadly bombings, and the authorities imposed a nationwide curfew.

A Sri Lankan province north of the capital was under indefinite curfew on Tuesday (May 14) after the first death in anti-Muslim riots in the wake of the Easter terror attacks, police said.

Sri Lanka has been on the edge since the April 21 horror when suicide bombers exploded themselves in three churches and three luxury hotels besides two other places.

Muslims make up almost 10 per cent of Sri Lanka's 22 million people who are predominantly Sinhalese Buddhists.

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Official sources said the curfew was aimed at preventing a further escalation of violence, but police would not say why it had been extended across the country of 21 million people.

Authorities also imposed a temporary ban on social-media networks and messaging apps including WhatsApp after a clash in another part of the country was traced to a dispute on Facebook.

The latest wave of unrest started when a mob targeted Muslim-owned shops in the town of Chilaw, 80 kilometres (50 miles) north of Colombo on Sunday in anger at a Facebook post by a shopkeeper.

Mob violence in central Sri Lanka targeting Muslim communities in March of previous year prompted the government to declare a state of emergency.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe denounced the rioters and urged the public to dismiss the rumors.

A group of about a dozen people had arrived in taxis and attacked Muslim-owned stores with stones just after midday on Monday, they said, with the mob soon swelling to 200, and then 1,000. Amid the heightened security, students are only allowed into schools after checks for explosives.

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