Published: Mon, May 13, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

Muslim cleric wanted for airing extremist views arrested by Sri Lankan authorities

Muslim cleric wanted for airing extremist views arrested by Sri Lankan authorities

Sri Lanka Government Information Department announced that certain social media platforms have been blocked as a short term measure to prevent the spread of false information following a tense situation erupted in northwestern coastal town of Chilaw on Sunday.

The main body of Islamic clerics, the All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama (ACJU), said there was increased suspicion of Muslims after the Easter Sunday attacks.

Curfews have been in place in the districts in the country's north-west since Sunday when a group of men smashed up Muslim-owned shops and a mosque in a dispute with a local shopkeeper.

Authorities said they arrested the author of a Facebook post, identifying him as 38-year-old Abdul Hameed Mohamed Hasmar.

The curfew has been imposed till 6 am Monday as a precaution, the police said.

The island nation has ramped up security as fears grow that minority Muslims among its population of 22 million could face sectarian violence after Islamist bombers blew themselves up in four hotels and three churches, killing more than 250 people.

Yesterday, security forces fired in the air to disperse mobs, but the violence spread to nearby towns where Muslim businesses were also attacked.

Sri Lanka has used temporary bans on social media in a bid to deter misinformation and rumours.

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The Muslims, huddled in the mosque, asked the police to fire in the air to disperse the mob, but the police said the people wanted to inspect the mosque for weapons.

Addressing a service here, Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith the Archbishop of Colombo, said everyone responsible for neglecting the intelligence and prior warnings on the attacks including the political leadership must be brought to book.

Tensions flared in Chilaw town when a clash between two communities had ensued into a full blown fight prompting police to impose a curfew within Chilaw Police Division.

The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, but the government has blamed local Islamist extremist group, the National Thawheed Jama'ath (NTJ), for the bombings.

Netblocks confirms that Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, YouTube, Viber, Snapchat and Facebook Messenger are blocked on leading internet providers.

The latest unrest came as Catholic churches resumed public Sunday masses for the first time since the bombings.

Since then, the government has intensified security across the country, with armed policemen and troops being deployed to protect schools, churches and key government offices. Security forces and police have been given sweeping powers to arrest and detain suspects for long periods.

Muslims make up almost 10 percent of Sri Lanka's 22 million people who are predominantly Sinhalese Buddhists.

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