Curfew in Sri Lankan towns extended indefinitely

Curfew in Sri Lankan towns extended indefinitely

Curfew in Sri Lankan towns extended indefinitely

Sri Lanka today extended indefinitely the curfew imposed in two of its popular southern tourist spots fearing spread of an ethnic flare-up between Buddhists and Muslims that has left nearly 100 wounded.

Authorities said the curfew would remain in effect in Aluthgama and Beruwala, a Muslim-dominated area, after Muslim-owned shops and homes were torched last night in a rampage by a Buddhist mob.

"The curfew will continue even though the situation is under control," police spokesman Ajith Rohana said.

Nearly 100 people were injured in clashes after the Buddhist majority nationalist group BBS or the Forces of Buddhist Power staged a rally in the Muslim-dominated areas of Beruwala, Dharga Town and Aluthgama on the south-western coast.

The affected areas are about 60 kilometres south of the capital Colombo.

Police used tear gas to disperse the rioters but failed to prevent clashes in the two towns, often frequented by international tourists, until Special Task Force (STF) arrived at the scene.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who is currently visiting Bolivia, has said in a statement that he would not to let anyone take law into their hands.

Muslims make up about 10 per cent of Sri Lanka's 20 million population.

The roots of the incident go back to last Thursday when a Buddhist monk was allegedly beaten up in the Beruwala town after a traffic incident.

Main Muslim party leader and minister of justice Rauff Hakeem claimed at least three members from the minority community were killed and several others injured in the riots.
Hakeem said scores of homes and businesses have been set on fire. Some mosques in the areas were also attacked.

BBS over the last two years have been running a counter campaign against what they have termed an extremist campaign by the Muslim community.

Muslims have called on the government to protect them from Buddhist-inspired hate attacks, while Buddhist accuse the minorities of enjoying undue influence.