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June 2, 2020
South Asia Top Stories

Man killed as Sri Lanka bursts into anti-Muslim riots

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka: Mobs killed a Sri Lankan Muslim man despite a nationwide curfew imposed by the authorities. Social media has also been temporarily banned after a Facebook post, interpreted as threatening and provocative, went viral triggering anti-Muslim riots.

The country imposed a nationwide overnight curfew after the worst outbreak of communal violence since the deadly Easter bombings. A Muslim man who suffered stab wound died on Monday, making him the first fatality in a violent new backlash against the Easter attacks. The 45-year-old man died during treatment at a hospital in Puttalam district.

Angry mobs attacked mosques, shops and houses owned by Muslims in the country’s north-western province. Police said the curfew would run from 9:00pm local time (1530 UTC) to 4:00am. The announcement came after police fired tear gas to disperse mobs in several parts of the province on the second day of violence against Muslims.

Police reports confirmed that there were incidents of mobs pelting stones and torching motorcycles and cars owned by Muslims. A senior police officer said several shops have been damaged. “When mobs tried to attack mosques, we fired in the air and used tear gas to disperse them,” he said.

At least three shops were torched and vandalised in the town of Hettipola. Overnight, a mob ransacked Abrar mosque in the town of Kiniyama.

The government also temporarily banned social media networks and messaging apps after similar attacks in several towns on Sunday to deter misinformation and rumours.

The unrest was centred in three districts north of the capital, Colombo. In the north-western town of Kiniyama, windows and doors to a mosque were smashed and copies of the Quran thrown on the floor.

On Twitter, Sri Lanka’s leading mobile phone operator Dialog said it had also received instructions to block Viber, IMO, Snapchat, Instagram and Youtube until further notice. There were no immediate reports of arrests.

Muslims have been subjected to hate comments in social media since the April 21 suicide attacks on three churches and three hotels.