Sri Lanka declares emergency amid anti-Muslim violence

Sri Lankan police curfew racial violence Kandy city

Religious and ethnic violence can turn deadly in Sri Lanka, where Muslims account for 10 percent of the population and Sinhalese make up almost 75 percent.

Sri Lanka's army soldiers stand guard near a burnt house after a clash between two communities in Digana, central district of Kandy, Sri Lanka March 6, 2018. 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.

On Tuesday morning, the body of a 28-year-old Muslim man was pulled from the burned-out wreckage of a house set on fire the previous day by Sinhalese Buddhists in Aluthwatte, some 35 kilometers north west of Kandy.

In the incidents of overnight violence in a Kandy suburb, Menikhinna, three policemen were injured while seven people were arrested for breaking the curfew and trying to cause unrest, police spokesman Superintendent of Police (SP) Ruwan Gunasekera said.

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 violence in Kandy, a serene region of verdant hills frequented by tourists and pilgrims, has threatened to reignite communal tensions that have roiled Sri Lanka in recent weeks.

"We chose to take strong action to control the situation and to deal strongly with all wrong doers", senior minister Rauff Hakeem, who is also the leader of the main Muslim party Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC), told reporters.

Muslims make up about 9 percent of Sri Lanka's 21 million people. The unrest in Kandy began on Sunday after the funeral of the Sinhalese truck driver, the government said.

He said an inquiry had also been opened into security lapses by police that allowed mobs of Sinhalese rioters to burn mosques as well as homes and businesses belonging to Muslims.

The Muslims hiding in the mosque, speaking on condition of anonymity because of fear of reprisals, said police prevented them from saving their property and did nothing to stop the attackers. Police reimposed the curfew until 0600 hours (0030 GMT) Wednesday.

Curfew was re-imposed today in Sri Lanka's riot-hit Kandy district with immediate effect until further notice following reports of violence between majority Sinhala Buddhists and minority Muslims in other areas of the multi-ethnic district.

Meanwhile, following declaration of a state of emergency, foreign governments, including the U.S. and the United Kingdom, have asked their nationals visiting the island nation to "exercise caution, avoid protests and rallies, and comply with local security requirements".

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