Sri Lanka declares emergency to quell anti-Muslim riots

Sri Lanka declares emergency to quell anti-Muslim riots

Sri Lanka declares emergency to quell anti-Muslim riots

Muslims own numerous small businesses in Sri Lanka, a fact that many believe has helped make them targets as Buddhist-Muslim relations have worsened in recent years amid the rise of hard-line Buddhist groups, which accuse Muslims of forcing people to convert and destroying sacred Buddhist sites.

Mobs set fire to Muslim-owned businesses and attacked a mosque in the east of the country last week after a Muslim chef was accused of adding contraceptives to food sold to Sinhalese. Police said two dozen people had been arrested in the wake of the riots.

Some Buddhist nationalists have also protested against the presence in Sri Lanka of Muslim Rohingya asylum-seekers from mostly Buddhist Myanmar, where Buddhist nationalism has also been on the rise.

Hakeem said the riots were concentrated in Kandy - home to famous tea plantations and Buddhist relics - but the government wanted to send a strong message given outbreaks of communal violence elsewhere recently.

"It was also made a decision to take stern action against people who are instigating violence through Facebook", he added, referring to postings on social media. Early on Tuesday the body of a Muslim youth was found in a burnt-out shop, police said.

This has been done to prevent spread of false information, the government spokesperson said.

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"We have clear rules against hate speech and incitement to violence and work hard to keep it off our platform", the social network said in a statement.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe also ordered an investigation into alleged police inaction in handling the clash.

President Maithripala Sirisena declared the state of emergency on Tuesday, though a day later details of the decree remained unclear.

"The situation in picture is Kandy and not Colombo".

Analysts said Muslim-owned businesses were being targeted as many Sinhalese believe that the minority group holds disproportionate economic power.

Muslims comprise around nine percent of Sri Lanka's population of 21 million.

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"As a nation that endured a brutal war we are all aware of the values of peace, respect, unity and freedom", he said on Twitter.

Sri Lanka is still healing from a 26-year civil war with Tamil separatist rebels that was plagued by atrocities and ended in 2009.

After the declaration of Emergency in Sri Lanka's Kandy town, senior BCCI official Rajeev Shukla on Tuesday urged the Indian government to ensure protection of the Indian Cricket team which is now in Colombo to take part in the Nidahas Trophy Twenty20 worldwide (T20I) tri-series.

The U.S. State Department issued a security alert warning of the possibility of further unrest in Kandy.

Denmark and Norway warned their citizens in Sri Lanka about the state of emergency, saying they should be "cautious, stay away from large crowds and demonstrations, follow media and listen to advice from local authorities".

"This will delay shipments, but won't have any impact on global prices, as Kenya and India have ample supplies to substitute".

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"There are many good Sinhalese people", he said.

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