Cape Argus

Sri Lanka tightens security


SRI LANKA widened a curfew yesterday after attacks on mosques and Muslim-owned businesses in the worst unrest since the Easter bombings by Islamist militants

The country also blocked Facebook, WhatsApp and other social media platforms to stop people inciting violence.

The island nation has ramped up security as fears grow that minority Muslims among its population of 22 million could face sectarian violence after Islamist bombers blew themselves up in four hotels and three churches, killing more than 250 people.

Several mosques and Muslim homes were damaged in an attack overnight in the western district of Kurunegala, the Muslim Council of Sri Lanka and residents said.

Police arrested a group of men for the attacks but people in the mostly Buddhist district demanded their release, military spokespers­on Sumith Atapattu said.

Later yesterday, authoritie­s extended the curfew to more villages in Kurunegala district to restore order.

Last month’s bombings claimed by Islamic State have shocked the island nation of 22 million people, more than 70% of whom are Sinhalese Buddhists and the rest Muslims, Hindus and Christians.

Since the bombings, Muslim groups say they have received complaints about people being harassed.

There was glass everywhere at the Abrar mosque in the Muslim-majority town of Kiniyama that was attacked. The windows and doors were smashed and copies of the Qur’an were thrown onto the floor.

A mosque official said the attacks were triggered when several people, including some Buddhist monks, demanded a search of the main building after soldiers had inspected a 43-hectare pond nearby.

“When Muslims tried to prevent the attack, we were asked by police to go inside,” the official said.

Authoritie­s imposed a ban on social media networks and messaging apps after a clash in another part of the country was traced to a dispute on Facebook. Several dozen 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.

Authoritie­s said they arrested the author of a Facebook post whose comment “1 day u will cry” people said was interprete­d as threatenin­g violence.

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