Sirisena to appoint committee to probe anti-Muslim riots


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.

The violence, triggered by the death of a Sinhalese Buddhist man after being beaten by a group of Muslim men over a traffic dispute, left at least two dead with and mosques, dozens of homes, and businesses torched or destroyed.

The government deployed the tri forces and imposed a curfew from Wednesday in the Kandy Administrative district when the police were unable to control the Sinhala mob attacking Muslim establishments, shops and mosques.

Curfew in the district was lifted at dawn Saturday but army continued to patrol alongside police, officials said.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said Thursday night that the riots had been a huge blow to Sri Lanka's efforts to bolster tourism after ending a 37-year-old ethnic civil war.

However, the weekly religious activity went off without incident yesterday, said the authorities.

Police said almost 150 people, including the main instigator, have been arrested over last week's unrest. Conflict escalated when a Muslim man was found dead in a burnt building on Tuesday.

Violent attacks against Muslims swept the central district of Kandy over the last week. In the capital Colombo too, Muslim-owned businesses remained closed.

"We have arrested 10 key suspects, including Amith Weerasinghe, who orchestrated and led these attacks", police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera told reporters in Colombo, adding that another 75 were detained.

In Kuruvita, 125 kilometres (78 miles) south of Kandy, police said petrol bombs were lobbed at a mosque. Muslims make up 10 percent of the population.

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.

However, in some areas, Sinhalese have helped Muslims to protect mosques, Muslim community leaders said.

"He expressed concern that many elements of the government's visionary 2015 program seem stalled, despite their importance to sustainable peace, security and prosperity in Sri Lanka", said the statement.

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