Sri Lanka Declares Emergency to Quell Anti-Muslim Riots

Sri Lanka Declares Emergency to Quell Anti-Muslim Riots

Yesterday, the government said Facebook, Viber and WhatsApp would be blocked across the country for three days.

The Sri Lankan rupee ended weaker on Wednesday as importers bought dollars on fears that the local currency could depreciate further if communal violence in the central district of Kandy spreads to other areas, dealers said.

When police refused, dozens of Muslim properties were set alight and a curfew was imposed in two towns in the district.

Police ordered Dialog Axiata, the country's largest mobile phone service provider, to restrain internet connections in the Kandy district after postings appeared on Facebook threatening attacks on Muslims.

"Hundreds of Muslim residents of Mullegama, a village in the hills of central Sri Lanka, barricaded themselves inside a local mosque after Buddhist mobs attacked their homes Wednesday morning accusing them of stealing the donation box of a nearby temple".

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So far, police have arrested more than seven individuals involved in triggering the clashes on Tuesday night. The religious tensions began past year after Buddhist groups accused Muslims of forcibly converting locals to Islam and desecrating their ancient holy sites. Having borne the brunt of a bloody civil war lasting for almost three decades, Sri Lanka was beginning to experience a period of normalcy, when the government was forced to declare a state of emergency.

Sri Lanka has always been divided between the majority Sinhalese, who are overwhelmingly Buddhist, and minority Tamils who are Hindu, Muslim and Christian.

Mary Lucas, CAFOD's Country Representative for Sri Lanka, said: "These attacks are extremely concerning and we echo concerns expressed by our partners that the country faces a precarious moment as it attempts not to fall back into the pain and misery of violent conflict". The country was under a state of emergency for almost three decades when the government fought Tamil rebels in the civil war that ended in 2009.

Some outlets quoting a provincial councilor said as many as four mosques, 37 houses, 46 shops and 35 vehicles were damaged in Digana and Teldeniya area; however, police and government authorities were yet to confirm these figures. The government then sent troops and elite police commandos to Kandy to restore order and enforce the curfew, as per reports.

It was not clear why the initial altercation occurred but after the driver's funeral on Monday, a Sinhalese mob attacked Muslim shops, police said. It also asked for an early lifting of the emergency.