One person was killed in Sri Lanka yesterday as police fired tear gas at mobs attacking mosques and Muslim-owned shops and imposed a curfew after the worst outbreak of sectarian violence since the Easter bombings by Islamist militants. The April 21 attacks, claimed by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), targeted churches and hotels, mostly in Colombo, killing more than 250 people and fuelling fears of a backlash against the island nation’s minority Muslims.
An officer at the Marawila hospital police said a 42-year-old man admitted to the hospital with stab wounds had died. A resident from the area who helped transport the victim to hospital identified him as Mohamed Ameer Mohamed Sally. Residents in Muslim parts of the North Western Province said mobs had attacked mosques and damaged shops and businesses owned by Muslims for a second day.
Police imposed a nationwide curfew until from 9pm to 4am, spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera said. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said in a statement that acts of sabotage were hampering an investigation by security forces and warned that “if the racism rises up… and peace is disturbed, the country will be destabilised”. “The intention of these groups who are causing violence is to cause disruption in public life, and destabilise the country,” he added.
Wickremesinghe said he had given powers to the security forces to take strong action against those disturbing the peace. The authorities also imposed a temporary ban on social media networks and messaging apps including WhatsApp after a clash in another part of the country was traced to a dispute on Facebook. A police source said police had fired tear gas to disperse mobs in some places in North Western Province.