A ten-day nation-wide state of emergency has been imposed after the death of a Sinhalese man sparked attacks against Muslim-owned businesses. Police used tear gas to disperse Buddhist radicals. The country is on the brink of a new civil war.
Colombo (AsiaNews) – The Sri Lankan government has declared a ten-day nation-wide state of emergency following recent attacks against Muslim homes and businesses in the central district of Kandy.
Tensions between the Sinhalese majority and Muslim minority now threaten to push the island nation towards civil strife.
Unofficial sources told AsiaNews that a shop, two hotels and a Tamil house were also damaged in the violence. A curfew was imposed on the town of Theldeniya until 6 am this morning.
The clashes broke out after a Sinhalese man was killed, which enraged some Sinhalese, including members of radical Buddhist groups.
The arrival in town of Galagoda Atte Gnanasara Thero, a radical monk from Bodu Bala Sena (BBS), and Dan Priyasath, who considers himself the "saviour of the Sinhalese", made matters worst. Both represent extremist groups and are out on bail for past attacks against Muslims.
Following the attack by an angry mob against a mosque in Digana as well as several Muslim-owned stores, fear of mass violence quickly spread in the Muslim community.
The latest clashes follow those last week in Ampara, where a Sinhalese crowd set fire to a mosque and nearby shops.
In Theldeniya riot police used tear gas in an attempt to disperse the crowd that had gathered outside the police station.
At least 24 people suspected in connection with the riots were taken into custody and remanded for their involvement in the violence.
According to Inspector General of Police Pujith Jayasundara, the Criminal Investigation Department has opened a probe into the sectarian clashes.
Sudarshana Gunawardena, director general of the Department of Government Information, issued an appeal to all the parties, especially the general public, to remain calm.