Colombo, May 14, 2019: Mob attacks on Muslim communities in Sri Lanka’s northwest have left one person dead and dozens of shops and mosques destroyed, a government minister said Tuesday, as communal violence worsened in the wake of Easter bombings that killed more than 250 people.
A Muslim man was hacked to death in Monday’s violence in which members of the country’s largely Buddhist majority ethnic Sinhalese attacked Muslim-owned shops and homes in several towns, said Rauff Hakeem, a Cabinet minister and leader of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress.
With communal violence also reported in Sri Lanka’s west, the government imposed a nationwide curfew Monday and temporarily blocked social media and messaging apps.
‘The curfew in the NWP will be continued until further notice,’ spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera said. ‘Security forces are assisting police who have been ordered to use maximum force to contain the violence.’
Police said they fired in the air and used tear gas at several places to deter people attempting to attack mosques.
In the adjoining district of Gampaha, mobs smashed Muslim-owned restaurants and at least one garment factory, official sources and residents said.
In an address to the nation on Monday night, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said a countrywide curfew was declared to prevent unidentified groups orchestrating communal violence.
‘At several places in the North-Western Province these groups created trouble, damaged property,’ Wickremesinghe said.
‘Police and security forces have contained the situation, but these (unidentified) groups are still trying to create trouble.’
Wickremesinghe said the unrest would hinder investigations into the April 21 attacks that targeted three Christian churches and three luxury hotels, killing 258 people and wounding nearly 500.
In a separate TV address, police chief Chandana Wickramaratne warned of stern action against rioters, and said that constables have been issued orders to use maximum force.