USA urges Sri Lanka to act against perpetrators of sectarian violence

USA urges Sri Lanka to act against perpetrators of sectarian violence

The Sri Lankan government has declared a nationwide state of emergency Tuesday after the recent anti-Muslim riots threw the South Asian island nation into chaos almost seven years after the last such riots took place in the country.

Sri Lanka imposed a curfew in a central town popular with tourists after days of unrest between religious communities with a Buddhist man killed and Muslim businesses set ablaze, Al Jazeera reported on Tuesday.

The government said it was imposing the state of emergency after police failed to curb violence in Kandy, where mobs of Sinhalese burned mosques, homes and businesses belonging to Muslims.

A police spokesman said hundreds of commandos from the police Special Task Force had been deployed to the troubled district to restore order and enforce the curfew.

"It was also made a decision to take stern action against people who are instigating violence through Facebook", he added.

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Of Sri Lanka's 21 million people, the Sinhalese Buddhists constitute for almost 70 percent of Sri Lanka's population, while Muslims make up almost 9 percent of the total population.

Muslim-Buddhist fallout: Some 75 percent of Sri Lanka's 21 million residents are Sinhalese, while around 10 percent are Muslim.

It was not clear why the initial altercation occurred but after the driver's funeral on Monday, a Sinhalese mob attacked Muslim shops, police said.

The Emergency was declared after communal clashes erupted in Kandy district. Police have already arrested four Muslim men over an alleged attack on the deceased Sinhalese youth.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe told parliament that "political groups" he did not identify were trying to incite hatred against Muslims.

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The announcement comes amid growing ethnic tension between Muslims and the primarily Buddhist majority Sinhalese on the Indian Ocean island.

At least one mosque was damaged overnight.

The Sri Lankan government, in a statement, strongly condemned the violence and warned strict action against the perpetrators.

Rajith Keerthi Tennakoon, executive director at Center for Human Rights and Research, a non-government organization, said "police inaction to control the mob from arson attacks was a surprise, and police should take all steps to prevent the spread of ethnic clashes in the area".

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