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Rediff News  All News  » News » Muslims offer Friday prayers under military protection in Sri Lanka after riots

Muslims offer Friday prayers under military protection in Sri Lanka after riots

March 09, 2018 20:02 IST

Sri Lankan troops guarded mosques and facilitated Friday prayers as authorities stepped up security in the violence-hit Muslim neighbourhoods in Kandy district after four days of riots that have left at least two people dead.

IMAGE: Muslim men pray at a ground in Digana central district of Kandy, Sri Lanka. Photograph: Dinuka Liyanawatte/Reuters

Several homes, businesses and mosques in the hilly Kandy district have been damaged in anti-Muslim riots, since Monday.


The violence erupted after the death of a Buddhist Sinhalese man last week.

To rein in communal violence, a state of emergency has been imposed by President Maithripala Sirisena's government.

A large number of Muslim-owned businesses in the island nation remained shut in protest against attacks by mainly Buddhist Sinhalese, but some shops in the Muslim neighbourhood opened on Friday.

Army personnel and police constables patrolled outside mosques in Kandy where prayers were offered in open grounds in many places because mosques had been burnt or vandalised.

About 3,000 police, 2,500 army personnel and 750 special task forces have been deployed in Kandy to bring the situation under control.

"There were no incidents during the Friday prayers," a police official said, adding that investigators had stepped up the search for those who took part in the violence.

At least 140 people, including the main suspect, have been arrested and brought to Sri Lanka's capital Colombo.

Authorities have also blocked internet access across the district and disrupted Facebook and messaging platforms after police said they were used to instigate communal violence.

Police said the situation had largely been peaceful during the day, however, curfew would be re-imposed in the district.

"The curfew would be re-imposed in the Kandy district, except in the Kandy Municipality areas, from 8 pm today till 5 am tomorrow," Police spokesman SP Ruwan Gunasekara said.

All schools remained close after the communal violence erupted. However, the Central Province Education Ministry today said that schools will reopen on Monday.

On Thursday night, during the curfew, rioters tried to attack Muslim sites, but swift intervention by the army prevented arson.

There were, however, incidents of stone pelting at Muslim sites elsewhere in the island.

IMAGE: Muslim men pray as police officers stand guard. Photograph: Dinuka Liyanawatte/Reuters  

Fresh violence erupted on Thursday in Muslim neighbourhoods in the Indian Ocean island nation's hilly central district.

In the capital Colombo too, Muslim-owned businesses remained shut.

Troops guarded mosques in the city while extra deployments were made to strengthen security and maintain peace.

Meanwhile, former President Mahinda Rajapaksa visited Kandy on Friday and held talks with religious leaders, including leading Buddhist monk.

Rajapaksha urged both the Sinhalese and Muslim communities to live peacefully and accused the government of failing in its duties in controlling the situation.

On Thursday, the police arrested 81 people, including the main suspect, for inciting violence against Muslims.

The arrests came after the police came under increasing public criticism over its alleged inaction to prevent violence in spite of the imposition of curfew.

Under attack for alleged police inaction, President Sirisena also replaced Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe as the law and order minister.

Wickremesinghe had also announced that compensations would be paid to the victims affected by the violence.

The communal violence has also hit the the tourism industry, as a number of foreign cancelled their visits.

According to media reports, around 80 tourists have cancelled their bookings made at one of the top three travel companies in Sri Lanka, which could possibly amount to a loss of 800 nights.

The Kandy region is about 115 kilometres from Colombo. It is popular tourist as well as Buddhist pilgrimage destination.

The Sinhalese Buddhists are about 75 per cent of Sri Lanka's 21 million population while Muslims are 10 per cent of the population.

Tensions between Muslim groups and the majority Sinhalese Buddhist community in the country have escalated since the end of the civil war in May 2009.

In 2014, violence directed against Muslim minority groups broke out in the southwestern town of Aluthgama, following a rally by hardline Buddhist nationalist monks, resulting in the death of at least three Muslims.

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