Colombo (AsiaNews/Agencies) - The Sri Lankan government imposed a curfew in two cities in the south of the country after violent clashes broke out between members of a radical Buddhist group and Muslims.
The riots took place yesterday following a rally at Aluthgama by the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS), a Buddhist fundamentalist group also known as the 'Buddhist brigade'. For security reasons, a curfew was also imposed on Beruwala, a predominantly Muslim town.
In his speech, Galagodaaththe Gnanasara Thero, a Buddhist monk and a BBS leader, allegedly incited violence between Muslims and Sinhalese Buddhists.
At the end of the meeting, BBS activists marched towards Muslim-majority areas of the city, chanting anti-Muslim slogans and throwing stones at a few houses and a mosque.
It is not clear how Muslims reacted, but eyewitnesses said they saw some Muslims dragged out of the buses and beaten. Robberies were also reported.
Police used tear gas to stop the violence but according to some unconfirmed eyewitness accounts, police also opened fire to disperse the crowd, injuring several people.
For several months, the BBS and similar organisations have verbally and physically attacked Sri Lanka's minority communities, particularly Muslims.
Such groups justify their acts of persecution, discrimination and violence by claiming they want to protect the public, the majority Buddhist Sinhalese population and its religion.