Sri Lanka Buddhist monks slam anti-Muslim riots


Sri Lankan troops today guarded mosques and facilitated Friday prayers as authorities stepped up security in the violence-hit Muslim neighbourhoods in Kandy district after four days of riots that have left at least two persons dead. Sri Lanka's leadership must rise to the challenge.

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, officials said.

They named the main suspect as Amith Weerasinghe, a Sinhalese known for anti-Muslim activism and outspoken social media posts.

Police said that 81 people, including the main suspect, had been arrested for triggering communal clashes.

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The riots, which began on Monday after a man from the Sinhalese majority died from injuries sustained in an attack by Muslims a week earlier, have left almost 200 Muslim businesses and homes destroyed.

While access to social media platforms such as Facebook and WhatsApp remained restricted for much of Thursday, access to them was restored by the evening.

More than 200 homes, businesses and vehicles have been torched in three days of violence, according to the Agence France Presse news agency, although unconfirmed reports say the number could be slightly higher, given that minor incidents were still occurring.

President Maithripala Sirisena toured Kandy on Wednesday and ordered security forces to use the full force of the law against troublemakers.

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Most Muslim-owned businesses remained closed in protest against attacks by mainly Buddhist Sinhalese groups concentrated around the central city of Kandy.

The Muslim representatives said that legal action must be taken against the individuals who are engaging in such anti-social acts without considering their positions. The conflict escalated when a Muslim man was found dead in a burnt building on Tuesday.

What is the historical relationship between Buddhists and Muslims in Sri Lanka, and what is driving recent tensions between them at this time?

Mobs also set fire to Muslim-owned businesses and attacked a mosque in the east of the country last week.

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In 2014, violence directed against Muslim minority groups broke out in the southwestern town of Aluthgama, following a rally by hardline Buddhist nationalist monks, resulting in the death of at least three Muslims. Muslims make up 10 percent of the population.