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Fresh violence erupts in riot-hit Kandy, 81 suspects arrested

Friday, March 09, 2018

Colombo: Fresh violence today erupted in Muslim neighbourhoods in Sri Lanka's hilly central district where communal clashes have destroyed shops and homes, on a day when President Maithripala Sirisena divested the law and order portfolio from Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.

The communal violence between majority Sinhala Buddhists and minority Muslims in the island nation has not subsided despite a state of emergency and a heavy deployment of troops in riot-hit Kandy.

Anti-Muslim riots, since Monday, have damaged several homes, businesses and mosques. The violence erupted after the death of a man from the mainly Buddhist Sinhalese majority last week.

To rein in communal violence, a state of emergency has been imposed by the Sirisena government after seven years.

 The government ordered the internet blackout, blocking of social media websites including Facebook and instant messaging app Whatsapp, after police discovered mobs of Sinhalese rioters were using social media to coordinate attacks on Muslim establishments.

According to media reports, petrol bombs were hurled at a mosque even as armoured vehicles and heavily-armed troops fortified the troubled district, where anti-Muslim violence has left two people dead.

Eighty one people, including the main suspect, who had led anti-Muslim violence were arrested, police said. "A man, named Vidanapathiranage Amith Jeewan Weerasinghe, who is believed to be the main suspect and nine others were arrested today," police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera told reporters.

They were arrested by the Terrorism Investigation Division (TID) in a special operation. "They were arrested for inciting communal violence and hate speech," he said. He said since March 4, there have been two deaths due to clashes. "One of them died of suffocation due to an arson attack while the other had died due to a grenade explosion", he added.

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