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Man killed by sword-wielding mob as Sri Lanka's anti-Muslim riots escalate

Anti-Muslim mobs targeted Muslim-owned businesses and mosques [Anadolu]

Date of publication: 14 May, 2019

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Sri Lankan authorities announced a curfew for a second straight night after a man was killed by rioters targeting Muslim-owned businesses.

Sri Lanka on Tuesday announced a curfew for a second night straight after a man was killed by anti-Muslim rioters wielding swords.

Violence broke out late on Monday, three weeks after Muslim extremists killed 258 people, with rampaging mobs carrying out arson attacks and vandalising a mosque, witnesses said.

A curfew had been in place all day in North-Western Province (NWP), where police said a 45-year-old Muslim man was slaughtered in his carpentry shop late on Monday by a crowd carrying swords.

Fauzul Ameen was buried on Tuesday at a Muslim cemetery in Nattandiya under tight security.

Police said on Tuesday that 13 people had been arrested, including Amith Weerasinghe, a man from Sri Lanka's majority Buddhist Sinhalese community on bail for his role in similar riots in March last year.

Elsewhere in NWP, north of Colombo, attackers outnumbering police and security forces set fire to Muslim-owned shops, vandalised homes and smashed windows, furniture and fittings inside several mosques.

In the adjoining Gampaha district, men on motorbikes led arson attacks in the town of Minuwangoda, 45 kilometres (30 miles) north of Colombo, local residents told AFP.

"They were from out of town," an owner of an electronic goods store said.

"After they started smashing Muslim shops and throwing petrol bombs, the locals joined in."

'Police did nothing'

Locals have criticised security forces for their response to the anti-Muslim riots, with police seemingly overwhelmed by the number of rioters on the streets.

Among those affected by the violence was Ashraf Jifthy, whose pasta factory was burned to the ground after unidentified attackers threw burning tyres inside.

Rioters set fire to Muslim-owned shops, vandalised homes
and
smashed windows, furniture and fittings
inside several mosques [AFP]

"Police and security forces also did not do anything to put out the fire," Jifthy told AFP by telephone. "Three of my Muslim workers were injured while trying to escape from the burning factory."

In the NWP, attackers have systematically targeted mosques for two days, local clerics told AFP. In the town of Kinyama, two mosques were smashed as outnumbered armed police and troops stood by.

"About 2,000 people surrounded our mosque and smashed everything inside, even the bathroom fittings," cleric M.I.M. Siddeeque told AFP by telephone from the curfew-bound town of Bingiriya.

Video footage of the unrest showed burning shops as mobs armed with sticks and stones roamed the streets attacking Muslim-owned shops.

"Security forces are assisting police who have been ordered to use maximum force to contain the violence," police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera said.

Politically orchestrated?

Political commentator Victor Ivan suggested that the violence was politically orchestrated.

"The opposition feels that they can gain when there is instability and the government appears to be weak," Ivan told AFP. "There is evidence of junior level opposition figures instigating communal violence."

He said the political establishment, including the opposition, had failed to provide leadership and restore confidence after the 21 April attacks claimed by the Islamic State group.

A state of emergency has been in place since the bombings and security forces have been given sweeping powers to detain suspects.

Internet service providers said the telecoms regulator on Tuesday extended a social media ban to Twitter. Earlier, Facebook, WhatsApp, YouTube and Instagram had been blocked to prevent the spread of messages inciting violence.

Amnesty International have called on authorities in Sri Lanka to do more to protect Muslims.

"The Sri Lankan authorities must protect the country's Muslim minority as it is being targeted by mobs in horrific attacks on their homes, mosques and businesses in the wake of the Easter Sunday massacre," said Amnesty's South Asia Researcher, Thyagi Ruwanpathirana.

"The authorities must take steps to promote unity in diversity against the forces of hatred, those promoting fear and violence, and pitting communities against each other."

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