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Tuesday 20th March 2018

Sri Lanka Police Arrest 23 for Targeting Muslims After Easter Bombings

Counterterrorism & Security

7Dnews London

Tue, 14 May 2019 18:28 GMT

Sri Lankan police arrested 23 people on Tuesday May 14th, in connection with a spate of attacks on Muslim-owned homes and shops in apparent reprisal for the Easter bombings by Isis militants that killed more than 250 people.

Soldiers in armoured vehicles patrolled the towns hit by sectarian violence this week, as residents recalled how Muslims had hidden in paddy fields to escape mobs carrying rods and swords, incensed over the militant attacks, Reuters has reported.

The April 21st attacks, claimed by Isis, targeted churches and hotels, mostly in Colombo, killing more than 250 people and fuelling fears of a backlash against the island nation's minority Muslims.

Muslim residents said that mobs moved through towns in Sri Lanka's northwest on motorbikes and in buses, ransacking mosques, burning Korans, and attacking shops with petrol bombs in rioting that began on Sunday, May 12th.

Police said they arrested 23 people from across the island for inciting violence against Muslims, who make up less than 10% of Sri Lanka's 22 million people, who are predominantly Sinhalese Buddhists.

Police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera said the situation is under control and no new incidents had been reported on Tuesday May 14th.

However, a nationwide curfew from 9 p.m. (1530 GMT) to 4 a.m. would be in effect for a second night.

The lone fatality was a man killed while trying to protect his home from attack.

Sri Lanka has had a history of ethnic and religious violence, and was torn for decades by a civil war between separatists from the mostly Hindu Tamil minority, and the Sinhala Buddhist-dominated government.

In recent years, Buddhist hardliners, led by the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) or "Buddhist Power Force," have stoked hostility against Muslims, saying influences from the Middle East had made Sri Lanka's Muslims more conservative and isolated.

Last year, scores of Muslim mosques, homes and businesses were destroyed, as Buddhist mobs ran amok for three days in Kandy, the central highlands district previously known for its diversity and tolerance.

Muslims said this week's violence was more widespread.