Sri Lanka Riots: Authorities impose nationwide curfew amid rising sectarian violence

Sri Lanka Riots: Authorities impose nationwide curfew amid rising sectarian violence

Sri Lanka has been on the edge following a series of suicide blasts on Easter that killed over 250 people.

The Prime Minister said: "Security forces are working tirelessly to apprehend terrorists and ensure the security of the country, but each time there is civil unrest, we increase their burden and hamper ongoing investigations".

In recent years, Buddhist hardliners, led by the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) or "Buddhist Power Force" have stoked hostility against Islam, saying Middle Eastern influence has turned Sri Lankan Muslims more conservative and isolated.

A mosque official said the attacks were triggered when several people, including some Buddhist monks, demanded a search of the main building after soldiers had inspected a 43-hectare lake nearby.

The same day, a curfew was imposed in Chilaw and Kuliyapitiya, Bingiriya, Hettipola and Dummalasuriya areas and the social media ban was imposed to prevent circulation of fake news and incitement to violence. "The recent violence in Sri Lanka has highlighted a growing influence of nationalist and extremist views of identity in the Asia region, putting religious minorities at risk", the United Nations said in a press release. "They have burnt our mosques and smashed many shops owned by Muslims", a resident of Kottampitiya area told Reuters by telephone, asking not to be identified for fear of reprisals.

Rioting there, north of the capital Colombo, saw police fire bullets into the air to disperse mobs marauding through several towns. They also encouraged the Government to make sure that these and other past similar attacks are fully investigated and those responsible for instigating or committing these violent acts are brought to justice and made accountable.

Officials have blocked some social media platforms and messaging apps, including Facebook and Whatsapp, in an attempt to curb the violence.

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Security forces have detained dozens of people suspected of involvement in the attacks, which were claimed by the "Islamic State" terror group.

Then the crowd surged into the mosque and ransacked it, the witness said.

"We call upon the members of the Muslim communities to be more patient and guard your actions and avoid unnecessary postings or hosting on social media", the ACJU said.

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

Internet service providers said they have been instructed by the telecommunications regulator to block access to Facebook, WhatsApp, YouTube and Instagram.

The latest unrest came as Catholic churches resumed public Sunday masses for the first time since the bombings. Amid the heightened security, students are only allowed into schools after checks for explosives.

But attendance has been extremely low, according to education authorities.

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