COLOMBO: Sri Lanka Tuesday declared a nationwide state of emergency to quell anti-Muslim riots that have killed at least two people and damaged dozens of mosques and homes, a minister said.
"The cabinet of ministers decided on tough measures, including a 10-day nationwide state of emergency," Minister of City Planning Rauff Hakeem said as police imposed a curfew in the riot-hit central district of Kandy.
The curfew was imposed on Tuesday, a day after Buddhists and Muslims clashed in the Indian Ocean island's central district of Kandy.
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Tension has been growing between the two communities in Sri Lanka over the past year, with some hardline Buddhist groups accusing Muslims of forcing people to convert to Islam and vandalising Buddhist archaeological sites. Some Buddhist nationalist 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.
"At a special cabinet meeting, it was decided to declare a state of emergency for 10 days to prevent the spread of communal riots to other parts of the country," the spokesman, Dayasiri Jayasekara, told Reuters. "It was also decided to take stern action against people who are instigating violence through Facebook," he added, referring to postings on social media.
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The government sent troops and elite police to Kandy after a mob set fire to a Muslim-owned shop, imposing a curfew there on Monday to prevent clashes between majority Sinhalese Buddhists and minority Muslims.