Easter Sunday Bombings: Man hacked to death in Sri Lanka communal riots

Sri Lanka

READ MORESri Lankan Catholics hold first Sunday mass after Easter attacks

Muslims in Sri Lanka have been bracing for revenge attacks since three churches and three luxury hotels were bombed by local Islamic extremists on April 21, killing 258 people.

A muslim owned home that was attacked by a mob is seen on May 14, 2019 in Thummodara, Sri Lanka.

Muslims form almost 10 percent of Sri Lanka's 22 million people who are predominantly Sinhalese Buddhists, with a sprinkling of minority Hindus and Christians.

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. The government stamped out the rebellion about 10 years ago.

'Police and security forces have contained the situation, but these (unidentified) groups are still trying to create trouble'.

Authorities said they arrested the author of a Facebook post, identified as 38-year-old Abdul Hameed Mohamed Hasmar, whose online comment "1 day u will cry" people said was interpreted as threatening violence.

A Catholic priest had sent out a message to parishioners about possible attacks, prompting panic in some of the violence-prone areas, police said in a separate statement.

"The Muslim community huddled in nearby paddy fields, that's how no one died", said one of a group of men gathered outside a white-and-green mosque with smashed windows and doors in the town of Kottampitiya.

"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.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe urged citizens to remain calm and not be swayed by rumours after the violence, majorly affecting Kurunegala district where Muslims were targeted, Colombo Gazette reported.

"With the danger of the awful experience snowballing in to a more complex conundrum, we urge the Government and the armed forces to curb continued violence against the innocent Muslims in the country".

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

The police, meanwhile, also made several changes in the command structure by removing senior officers in the troubled areas after allegations officials did nothing to stop the rioters.

Meanwhile, the military released CCTV footage which showed a man in uniform apparently standing by while a mob pelted stones at a home, and sought public help to identify the individual.

In the video, a man wearing what appeared to be an army uniform stands outside a building and then walks away.

"The attacks on mosques, the burning of houses and shops, the attacks on innocent people can not be condoned in any way", Jayasuriya said in a statement.

"It is no heroism in attacking Muslims and damaging their property - true heroism is to control and overcome oneself", he said. "The security forces have been given full powers to deal with those who violate the state of emergency and the islandwide curfew", he said.

Nalaka Kaluwewa, the chief of the Information Department said the ban on social media was intended "to prevent misinformation from being circulated and also to prevent spreading of information that would harm communal harmony". Netblocks confirms that Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, YouTube, Viber, Snapchat and Facebook Messenger are blocked on leading internet providers.

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