Wednesday, 24 July, 2019

Sri Lanka extends nationwide curfew after anti-Muslim riots

A Sri Lankan police officer stands guard at the main entrance of the St. Theresa's church as the Catholic churches hold services again after the Easter attacks in Colombo Enlarge Image A Sri Lankan police officer stands guard at the main entrance of St. Theresa's church during Catholic services. AFP Getty Images
Deanna Wagner | 15 May, 2019, 19:02

Recalling their recent statements against violent extremism and hate speech, the United Nations Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng, and the United Nations Special Adviser on the Responsibility to Protect, Karen Smith said they were "alarmed about the growing acts of violence on the basis of religion, including attacks against homes, places of worship and businesses, in the North Western Province of Sri Lanka".

Police imposed a countrywide curfew until from 9 4 a.m., spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera said.

But Muslims in North-West Province remained nervous and stayed indoors Wednesday, after sword-wielding rioters killed one man late Monday while vandalising scores of shops and mosques.

The attacks committed on this weekend of 11 May follow deadly attacks carried out on Easter Sunday of 21 April 2019, against churches and hotels in various parts of the country in which more than 200 people were killed and hundreds were injured.

According to the the All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama (ACJU) - the main body of Islamic clerics - there has been increased suspicion of Muslims after the attacks blamed on local Islamic group National Thowheed Jamath, which is believed to have links with the Islamic State (IS) that claimed the carnage.

Nalaka Kaluwewa, the chief of the Information Department said the ban on social media was intended "to prevent misinformation from being circulated and also to prevent spreading of information that would harm communal harmony".

There was glass everywhere at the Abrar mosque in the Muslim-majority town of Kiniyama that was attacked overnight.

Sri Lanka has used temporary bans on social media in a bid to deter misinformation and rumours.

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"The intention of these groups who are causing violence is to cause disruption in public life, and destabilize the country", he said.

A state of emergency has been in place since the bombings and security forces have been given sweeping powers to detain suspects.

Muslims make up around 10 percent of Buddhist-majority Sri Lanka's 21 million population and Christians about 7.6 percent. In the town of Kinyama, two mosques were smashed as outnumbered armed police and troops stood by.

The witness said the crowd then surged into the mosque and ransacked it.

On Twitter, Sri Lanka's leading mobile phone operator Dialog said it had also received instructions to block Viber, IMO, Snapchat, Instagram and Youtube until further notice.

A mob targeted Muslim-owned shops after taking a Facebook post by a shopkeeper to be a threat.

"Don't laugh more, 1 day u will cry", he wrote, which local Christians took to be a warning of an impending attack.

Sri Lanka on Monday temporarily blocked some social media networks and messaging apps, including Facebook and WhatsApp, after attacks on mosques and Muslim-owned businesses in the worst unrest since Easter bombings by Islamist militants.