03/09/2018, 14.37

Greater security at Sri Lanka’s mosques for Friday prayers following unrest

A nation-wide state of emergency remains in force, whilst a curfew has been imposed in Kandy. Police have arrested 85 people involved in racial and ethnic violence. Strong fear grips Muslims.

Colombo (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Sri Lankan authorities have decided to boost security at mosques ahead of Friday prayers after anti-Muslim violence left three people dead this week. At the same time, most Muslim-owned shops and businesses will remain closed.

Tensions are still running high in Sri Lanka, and many fear the outbreak of a new civil war. The confrontation is centred in Kandy, a well-known tourist destination.

On Monday a crowd of Buddhist Sinhalese attacked and set on fire to a local mosque and several Muslim-owned shops and houses because of the death of a Sinhalese man.

As a result of the violence, the authorities declared a state of emergency throughout the country and imposed a curfew on the city of Kandy.

However, this has not stopped attacks against the Muslim minority. The latest estimate indicates that more than 200 Muslim-owned businesses, homes and vehicles have been destroyed.

Police note that at least 85 people have been arrested in connection with the unrest, including the man considered the instigator of racial and religious violence.

The authorities have also blocked Internet and social media to prevent the spread of fake news.

Army chief Mahesh Senanayake visited Kandy on Thursday and promised greater military presence near mosques nationwide.

"There is some fear among Muslims that they could be targeted on Friday . . . We will ensure their safety and security," a military official quoted Senanayake as saying during his visit.

Sri Lanka is a predominantly Buddhist – 75 per cent of the population of 21 million – whilst Muslims account for about 9 per cent.

The island nation went through almost 30 years of civil war between the military and Tamil Tigers rebels, which ended in 2009.

Since then, the country has been engaged in a difficult process of national reconciliation that is still hard-pressed to manage.

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