Curfew eased but unrest in Sri Lanka continues

A Muslim man from the Moor community surveying the damage to his business, which was attacked and looted in Pallekele town in Kandy, some 117km from Colombo, on Wednesday.
A Muslim man from the Moor community surveying the damage to his business, which was attacked and looted in Pallekele town in Kandy, some 117km from Colombo, on Wednesday.PHOTOS: REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
A Muslim man from the Moor community surveying the damage to his business, which was attacked and looted in Pallekele town in Kandy, some 117km from Colombo, on Wednesday.
A Sri Lankan soldier standing guard next to a damaged shop in Kandy, Sri Lanka, yesterday.PHOTOS: REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
A Muslim man from the Moor community surveying the damage to his business, which was attacked and looted in Pallekele town in Kandy, some 117km from Colombo, on Wednesday.
People at a rally in Colombo calling for calm yesterday.PHOTOS: REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Troops patrol tourist hot spot as tensions remain high amid fresh anti-Muslim violence

COLOMBO • Sri Lankan police said petrol bombs were hurled at a mosque yesterday as hundreds of troops patrolled a troubled central district where anti-Muslim violence has left three people dead.

Muslim-owned businesses were set on fire and vandalised in several parts of Sri Lanka, police said, days after an islandwide state of emergency was imposed to curb riots in Kandy. Armoured vehicles and heavily armed troops fortified the hill district, where Internet services remain suspended and an evening curfew is in place.

The government ordered the Internet blackout after police discovered mobs of Sinhalese rioters were using social media to coordinate attacks on Muslim establishments.

A total of 81 people, including the main suspect, have been arrested for triggering the deadly communal clashes, police said yesterday.

However, The Crisis Group's Sri Lanka senior analyst Alan Keenan warned that failure to make arrests of well-known Buddhist agitators was not encouraging.

"Strong, decisive and coherent action is urgently needed if Sri Lanka is to avoid tipping into a new and potentially crippling round of communal conflict," Mr Keenan wrote in a commentary.

More than 200 homes, businesses and vehicles have been torched in three days of violence by mobs from the mainly Buddhist Sinhalese majority.

Violence in central Sri Lanka continued yesterday, even as security forces stepped up patrols in villages such as Digana, a suburb in the tourist hot spot of Kandy that has been caught up in the violence between Sinhalese and Muslims. Three people ha
No let-up in Sri Lanka communal clashes: Violence in central Sri Lanka continued yesterday, even as security forces stepped up patrols in villages such as Digana, a suburb in the tourist hot spot of Kandy that has been caught up in the violence between Sinhalese and Muslims. Three people have been killed in the violence that erupted on Monday, and police told the Xinhua news agency that a total of 81 people have been arrested. A curfew, which was lifted temporarily in the daytime yesterday after overnight calm, will remain in place until this morning. PHOTO: REUTERS

A 24-hour curfew was imposed on Wednesday afternoon after a hand grenade exploded in the hands of an attacker, killing him and wounding 11 others, offi-cials said.

The daytime curfew was eased following a calm night, but tensions remain high in the tourist hot spot and schools shuttered.

But in Kuruvita, 125km south of Kandy, police said petrol bombs were lobbed at a mosque. Little damage was inflicted, and three suspects are being pursued.

In Weligama, 240km south of Kandy, a Muslim-owned business was attacked, police said, while Muslim establishments were pelted with stones in at least two other locations outside Kandy.

Muslims in Kandy complained that security forces and police - equipped with special powers to detain under the emergency provision - have been slow to react as the violence unfolded.

"The main junction is going up in flames. At the same time, the authorities are folding their arms and watching," Muslim businessman M. Jaffer was quoted as saying in yesterday's DailyFT newspaper.

"Many in Sri Lanka now fear the current wave of militant Buddhist attacks may be designed in part to provoke a violent response from Muslims, which would then be used to justify wider-scale attacks on the community," wrote Mr Keenan.

President Maithripala Sirisena toured Kandy on Wednesday, and ordered security forces to use the full force of the law against troublemakers. Military officials said more reinforcements were sent to the area on Wednesday night to assist police, who resorted to tear gas to disperse rioters the previous evening.

The United Nations has condemned the violence, and urged Colombo "to ensure that appropriate measures are swiftly taken to restore normalcy in affected areas".

"Shops are opening, and more people can be seen on the roads since the curfew was lifted," a police official in the area said by telephone.

Sri Lanka's Minister of Public Administration and Management Ranjith Madduma Bandara was sworn in as the new Law and Order Minister yesterday.

Mr Bandara took over the portfolio from Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, who temporarily took over the Law and Order Ministry last month.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, XINHUA

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 09, 2018, with the headline 'Curfew eased but unrest in Sri Lanka continues'. Print Edition | Subscribe