Sri Lanka situation 'under control' after anti-Muslim riots

Sri Lanka blocks social media platforms after Muslim shops mosques attacked

The Catholics of Sri Lanka, even those in Negombo where they are in sizeable numbers, have been quiet following the Cardinal's appeal not to retaliate or take the law into their hands after eight suicide bombers, belonging to the National Tawheed Jamaat (NTJ) and the Jamaathei Millathu Ibrahimi (JMI) attacked three churches and three hotels in the island on April 21 killing 253 persons, mostly Catholics attending the Easter Mass. The status of Kumara was not clear. Scores of private homes, Muslim-owned shops and businesses were destroyed, while several mosques were also vandalised.

Muslims make up almost 10 per cent of Sri Lanka's population of 22 million, which is predominantly Buddhist. For more than a quarter century it was embroiled in civil war as Tamil Tiger rebels fought to create an independent state for ethnic minority Tamils.

'Police and security forces have contained the situation, but these (unidentified) groups are still trying to create trouble'.

A 38-year-old Muslim businessman identified as the author of the post that sparked the violence was arrested.

Police said Tuesday that just over 80 people had been arrested including Amith Weerasinghe, a man from Sri Lanka's majority Buddhist Sinhalese community on bail for his role in similar riots in March past year. One man was stabbed to death with a sword.

"Our people are still afraid to go out", he told AFP by telephone.

In Bingiriya, where some 2,000 people went on the rampage, Muslim cleric M.I.M. Siddeeque said the community was anxious.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in an address to the nation, said the military has been asked to quell the anti-Muslim riot and urged public cooperation to the security forces to bring the situation under control.

Despite the extraordinary security measures, the minorities felt insecure, said Dissanayake, who is also a government minister.

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"With the danger of the bad experience snowballing in to a more complex conundrum, we urge the Government and the armed forces to curb continued violence against the innocent Muslims in the country".

One police source who declined to be identified told Reuters they did not have enough officers to handle the rioters.

"Over the last 24 hours there were localised police curfews to contain tensions between Christians and Muslims in these particular areas", she said.

"The CCTV recording from the mosque shows an army soldier apparently calling the mob towards the premises with a hand signal around 6.45 pm".

In the video, the man stands outside the building and then leaves.

"The attacks on mosques, the burning of houses and shops, the attacks on innocent people can not be condoned in any way", Jayasuriya said in a statement.

There was glass everywhere at the Abrar mosque in the Muslim-majority town of Kiniyama that was attacked overnight. "The security forces have been given full powers to deal with those who violate the state of emergency and the islandwide curfew", he said. Netblocks confirms that Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, YouTube, Viber, Snapchat and Facebook Messenger are blocked on leading internet providers.

"Social media blocked again as a temporary measure to maintain peace in the country", Nalaka Kaluwewa, the director general of the Department of Government Information said.

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