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Sri Lanka under curfew after anti-Muslim riots

Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka officials lifted the nationwide curfew imposed on Tuesday but chose to reimpose it in the North-Western Province (NWP) of the country which includes the Puttalam and Kurunegala districts.

Police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera said the night curfew will go into effect from 9:00 pm (15:30 GMT) while the most affected North Western Province will have a longer shutdown.

Some 5,500 additional police were deployed in the province to contain the violence that claimed the life of a Muslim man on Monday, AFP reports.

Tensions have been high in Sri Lanka since Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL)-linked suicide bombings targeted Christians on Easter Sunday, killing and wounding hundreds of people. "The fact that Sri Lanka has a history of serious violations of human rights of religious minorities makes it even more urgent that the Government act to safeguard the human rights of all persons and take immediate measures to protect members of religious minorities from further violence".

Kurunegala town is located about 100 km from Colombo and Muslims constitute the second largest ethnic group there after the Sinhalese, who are mainly Buddhists.

The main mosque was attacked, a copy of the Quran, the Muslim holy book dragged along the ground and two motorcycles parked nearby were burned, he added.

In a separate TV address, Police Chief Chandana Wickramaratne warned police will take stern action against rioters, and constables have been issued orders to use maximum force.

"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". Homes and mosques were vandalised by people armed with sticks and other weapons.

In the adjoining Gampaha district, men on motorbikes led arson attacks in the town of Minuwangoda, 45 kilometres (30 miles) north of Colombo, local residents told AFP. The police had to fire in the air and use tear gas to disperse rioters in several towns, reported BBC.

In this Sunday, May 12, 2019, photo, Sri Lankan soldiers watch as a group of Muslim students walk past a closed catholic convent in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

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

"The Special Advisers noted a recent spate of attacks against Muslim and Christian communities in Sri Lanka, a majority Buddhist country".

Authorities said they arrested the author of a Facebook post, identified as 38-year-old Abdul Hameed Mohamed Hasmar, whose online comment "1 day u will cry" people said was interpreted as threatening violence.

Muslims make up almost 10 per cent of Sri Lanka's 22 million people who are predominantly Sinhalese Buddhists.

Internet service providers said they have been instructed by the telecommunications regulator to block access to Facebook, WhatsApp, YouTube and Instagram.