Soldiers guard mosques in tense Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka

Unrest escalated when a Muslim man was found dead in a burnt building on Tuesday, with an island-wide state of emergency imposed to curb the violence.

The commission made up of three retired judges, will inquire and assess the loss of lives, damage to property and also what laws were broken and any lapses by authorities, and who instigated the violence.

There have been several communal clashes in recent years in Sri Lanka, where Sinhalese Buddhists make up 75 per cent of its 21 million people.

Sri Lanka's Muslim minority held their Friday prayers under military protection across the island amid fears of fresh attacks.

At least 140 people, including the main instigator, have been arrested over the unrest, police said.

The police had claimed that anti-Muslim rioters were using social media to spread anti-Muslim hatred.

The riots, which began on Monday after a man from the mainly Buddhist Sinhalese majority died from injuries sustained in an attack by Muslims last week, have destroyed more than 200 Muslim businesses, homes and vehicles. Sinhalese are a largely Buddhist ethnic group.

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"Shops are opening, and more people can be seen on the roads since the curfew was lifted", a police official in the area said by telephone.

The announcement came after police spokesman SP Ruwan Gunasekara said yesterday that curfew will not be imposed in Kandy as situation has been peaceful.

He drew similarity to state that "It is precisely these conditions culminating in periodic anti-Tamil pogroms, which ultimately led to the three-decade long civil war, the effects of which the country is still struggling to overcome".

Sri Lanka's telecoms regulator asked internet providers to block access to Facebook and other social media platforms to prevent the spread of anti-Muslim hate speech.

A group of radical Buddhists monks are facing prosecution for their alleged role in anti-Muslim violence in 2014 that left four people dead. India, already concerned about China's growing influence in Sri Lanka, will be anxious by any strife with ramifications for regional security.

Some Buddhist nationalists have protested against the presence in Sri Lanka of Muslim Rohingya asylum seekers from mostly Buddhist Myanmar, where Buddhist nationalism has also been on the rise.

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