Assault on mosque in Colombo revives religious tensions in Sri Lanka

COLOMBO (AFP) - Sri Lankan police deployed commandos and imposed a curfew on a Colombo neighbourhood on Saturday after a Buddhist-led mob attacked a mosque, wounding four people and reviving simmering religious tensions, officials said.

Two police constables guarding the disputed mosque in Colombo's Grandpass area were among those wounded and hospitalised, Colombo National Hospital spokesman Pushpa Soysa said.

"They had been hit by stones and also had cut injuries from falling glass debris," Ms Soysa told AFP. "We have two constables and two Muslim men admitted following the attack."

Residents said temple bells summoned the faithful who went over to the neighbouring mosque and started pelting stones. Several homes in the area were also damaged, residents said.

Seventy percent of Sri Lanka's 20 million population follow Buddhism, while Muslims are the second-largest religious minority with just under 10 per cent, after Hindus who make up about 13 per cent. Others are Christian.

Police sources said elite Special Task Force commandos were deployed to help maintain law and order following mob violence against the mosque. Police said they had imposed a curfew until 7am on Sunday to disperse the large number of people still in the area.

A security official said Buddhists had objected to the new mosque, which had been established to replace their older place of worship earmarked for demolition to make way for new construction.

"The Buddhist temple had objected to the relocation of the mosque, and the troubles started during Saturday evening prayers of the mosque," the official said, asking not to be be named.

The latest attack came five months after an anti-Muslim campaign culminated in the torching of two Muslim-owned businesses just outside the capital.

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