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Sri Lanka: Petrol bombs were thrown at Mosque, shops in anti-Muslim riots

Sri Lanka: Petrol bombs were thrown at Mosque, shops in anti-Muslim riots

COLOMBO: Sri Lankan police said petrol bombs were hurled at a mosque yesterday as hundreds of troops patrolled a troubled central district where anti-Muslim violence has left three people dead.

Muslim-owned businesses were set on fire and vandalised in several parts of Sri Lanka, police said, days after an island-wide state of emergency was imposed to curb riots in Kandy.

Armoured vehicles and heavily-armed troops fortified the hill district, where internet services remain suspended and an evening curfew is in place.

The government ordered the internet blackout after police discovered mobs of Sinhalese rioters were using social media to coordinate attacks on Muslim establishments.

More than 200 homes, businesses and vehicles have been torched in three days of violence by mobs from the mainly Buddhist Sinhalese majority.

A 24-hour curfew was imposed on Wednesday afternoon after a hand grenade exploded in the hands of an attacker, killing him and wounding 11 others, officials said.

The day-time curfew was eased following a calm night but tensions remain high in the tourist hotspot and schools shuttered.

But in Kuruvita, 125 kilometers south of Kandy, police said petrol bombs were lobbed at a mosque. Little damage was inflicted and three suspects are being pursued.

In Weligama, 240 kilometers south of Kandy, a Muslim-owned business was attacked, police said, while Muslim establishments were pelted with stones in at least two other locations outside Kandy.

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.

Police have already identified anti-Muslim messages being shared on social networks, including a video posted by a hardline Buddhist monk urging violence against Muslims.

Muslims in Kandy complained that security forces and police, equipped with special powers to detain under the emergency provision, were slow to react as the violence unfolded.

President Maithripala Sirisena toured Kandy on Wednesday and ordered security forces to use the full force of the law against troublemakers.

Military officials said more reinforcements were sent to the area on Wednesday night to assist police who resorted to teargas to disperse rioters the previous evening.

The United Nations has condemned the violence and urged Colombo to swiftly restore normalcy in affected areas.

-AFP