Curfew in Sri Lankan tourist town of Kandy to be temporarily lifted
KANDY (Reuters) – A curfew in the Sri Lankan town of Kandy will be temporarily lifted on Thursday, authorities said, following days of violence against members of the minority Muslim community by Buddhists.
Buddhist mobs have attacked mosques and Muslim businesses in the central highland town since an altercation between members of the two communities over the weekend, prompting President Maithripala Sirisena to declare a state of emergency.
The Kandy area was quiet on Wednesday night and early on Thursday, the military said.
“The situation is improving and there have been no major incidents of violence reported in the last 12 hours,” said Major General Rukman Dias, the army commander in the area.
Dias said the curfew was likely to be re-imposed in Kandy in the evening.
Communal tensions in Sri Lanka have grown in the past year with some hardline Buddhist groups accusing Muslims of forcing conversions to Islam and vandalising Buddhist archaeological sites. Muslim groups deny the allegations.
On Wednesday, a grenade blast killed one person and injured three in the area, despite the government’s declaration of emergency rule and moves to block social messaging networks in an effort to halt inflammatory speech.
The government said on Wednesday Facebook, Viber and WhatsApp would be blocked across Sri Lanka for three days.
Muslims make up about 9 percent of Sri Lanka’s 21 million people. Buddhists make up about 70 percent and ethnic Tamils, most of whom are Hindus, about 13 percent.
Some Buddhist nationalists have 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.
Sri Lanka was for decades plagued by war between government forces and Tamil separatists. The government defeated the rebels in 2009.