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Sri Lanka declares emergency to quell anti-Muslim riots

Sri Lanka declares emergency to quell anti-Muslim riots”

Recent years have seen increasing tension between hardline Buddhist groups, mainly led by the Buda Bala Sena (BBS) which has reportedly launched a campaign against production of halal food (2013-14), proposed a ban on burka (2014), and has been allegedly involved in various attacks on Muslims. Muslim groups deny these allegations.

The government sent troops and elite police to the area on Monday and imposed a curfew.

According to police, on February 22, the man was admitted to a hospital following an attack, where he succumbed to his injuries on March 3, after which the attackers arrested and were remanded to police custody till tomorrow.

The body of a Muslim man was pulled from the ashes of a burnt building Tuesday, police said, threatening to further fuel communal tensions that have flared up across the country in recent weeks.

"It was also chose to take stern action against people who are instigating violence through Facebook", he added, referring to postings on social media.

Heavily-armed police commandos were deployed to restore order in Kandy after rioters defied an overnight curfew and went on the rampage.

Sri Lanka has always been divided between the majority Sinhalese, who are overwhelmingly Buddhist, and minority Tamils who are Hindu, Muslim and Christian.

Facebook, which owns WhatsApp, said it was working to identify and remove incitements to violence, and was in contact with the government and private organizations. "This is clearly hate crime".

"The government is taking all possible measures to protect the people, especially Muslims", Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe told parliament.

On a visit to Kandy, President Maithripala Sirisena urged religious leaders to do more to rebuild inter-communal peace.

Muslims in Colombo said they fear for the safety of relatives living in Kandy.

Mohamed Khan, a 71-year-old worker in a soap factory in Colombo, said his relatives in Kandy were in hiding.

Police and some residents said Sinhalese owned properties were also attacked. The island nation was under a state of emergency for almost three decades as government forces battled Tamil rebels in a civil war that ended in 2009.

Muslims comprise around nine percent of Sri Lanka's population of 21 million.

"While it is positive that the government wishes to prevent further violence, any steps taken to address the problem, however, must meet Sri Lanka's obligations under global human rights law, including the absolute prohibition on torture, unfair trials and arbitrary detention", said Biraj Patnaik, the group's South Asia director.

"There should be no impunity, either for the incitement that led to the attacks, or the attacks themselves", he said in a speech to the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva.

The secretary general of BBS led by Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara has emerged as a fundamentalist and violent outfit with increasing clout in Sri Lanka.

Kandy is located in the heart of the Indian Ocean island nation's tea-growing region but an Indian trader said the crisis was unlikely to affect global tea markets in the near term.



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