Amnesty International has called on Sri Lanka to 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.
In a televised address, Police Chief Chandana Wickramaratne warned that officers would respond to rioters with maximum force. Homes and mosques were also vandalised by large groups of people armed with sticks and weapons.
In response to the violence, the police imposed a nationwide curfew between 9pm and 4am local time, spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera said.
Sri Lanka has a population of 21 million which is a patchwork of ethnicities and religions, dominated by the Sinhalese Buddhist majority.More news: HTC's new Exodus 1s costs $250-300, runs full Bitcoin node
"When Muslims tried to prevent the attack, we were asked by police to go inside", the official said.
The government also temporarily banned social media networks and messaging apps after similar attacks in several towns on Sunday.
Mosques and Muslim-owned shops have been targeted but there were no reports of casualties.
Sri Lankan soldiers patrol a road of Hettipola on top of an armored vehicle, after a mob attack in a mosque in the nearby village of Kottampitiya, Sri Lanka May 14, 2019.More news: Antoine Griezmann to leave Atletico Madrid
Sri Lankan authorities say most of the 150 people suspected to have been linked to last month's attacks have died or been arrested but many still fear that the government has not caught all potential militants. Wickremesinghe said the violence by a handful of people only hampered the ongoing investigations into suicide bomb attacks by local Islamic extremist group National Thowheeth Jama'ath (NTJ).
In Christian-majority Chilaw, people reportedly threw rocks at mosques and beat up a man after a shopkeeper wrote "Don't laugh more, 1 day u will cry" in a Facebook post that Christians deemed as a threat of a new attack.
The main body of Islamic clerics, the All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama (ACJU), said there was increased suspicion of Muslims after the Easter Sunday killings.
Sri Lankan security personnel stand guard after the clashes erupted between the two communities in Negombo near Colombo.More news: Prince Harry reveals how Meghan Markle is coping as a new mum
The latest unrest came as Catholic churches resumed public Sunday masses for the first time since the bombings. Amid the heightened security, students are only allowed into schools after checks for explosives.
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