Colombo: Sri Lanka Police imposed the island wide curfew on Monday as anti-Muslim violence broke out in the northwestern province spread to other areas in the country as well. Majority Sinhalese mobs set fire to Muslim-owned shops and vehicles. Homes and mosques were also vandalised by large groups of people armed with sticks and weapons. The Sri Lankan government also reimposed a ban on social media following the violent clashes. One person was killed in the violence.
The recent violence is a fresh backlash from the Easter attacks where nine suicide bombers, including a woman, carried out a series of devastating blasts that tore through three churches and three luxury hotels, killing 258 people and injuring over 500 others. Meanwhile, President Maithripala Sirisena has issued a gazette notice banning three Islamic extremist organisations, including National Thowheeth Jama’ath (NTJ) that was blamed for the Easter bombings.
The other two banned organisations are the Jama’athe Milla’athe Ibrahim(JMI) and the Willayath As Seylani. In an address to the nation, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said the military has been asked to quell the anti-Muslim riot and urged public to cooperate with security forces to bring the situation under control.
In the wake of violence being reported in some areas, Army Chief Lieutenant General Mahesh Senanayake warned anyone instigating violence and destroying property and said that the armed forces would not hesitate to use maximum force to stem any violence. An officer at the Marawila hospital said a 42-year old man admitted to the hospital with stab wounds had died.
"There are hundreds of rioters, police and army are just watching. They have burnt our mosques and smashed many shops owned by Muslims," a resident of Kottampitiya area said. "When we try to come out of our house, police tell us to stay inside." 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. A police source said police had fired tear gas to disperse mobs in some places in North Western Province.
Glass was strewn across the Abrar mosque in the town of Kiniyama that was attacked overnight. All the windows and doors of the building were smashed and copies of the Koran were thrown onto the floor. People threw stones at mosques and Muslim-owned stores and a man was beaten in the Christian-majority town of Chilaw on the west coast on Sunday in the dispute that started on Facebook, police sources and residents said.