Published: Wed, May 15, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

Sri Lankan engineer, under Indian surveillance, key in Easter attack

Sri Lankan engineer, under Indian surveillance, key in Easter attack

Sri Lanka officials lifted the nationwide curfew imposed over religiously-fueled riots on Tuesday, but made a decision to reimpose it in the North-Western Province (NWP) where a Muslim man was killed overnight.

Official sources said the curfew was aimed at preventing a further escalation of violence, but police would not say why it had been extended across the country of 21 million people.

Residents in the North-Western Province were ordered to stay indoors after Christian-led mobs torched dozens of Muslim-owned shops, vehicles and mosques on Sunday and Monday.

In at least six other towns police and the army used tear-gas to disperse rioters.

Tensions have been running high in Sri Lanka since the April 21 attacks by militant Islamic suicide bombers who struck two Catholic churches, one Protestant church and three luxury hotels.

The communal unrest started on Sunday after a group of people entered the Chilaw town after a Facebook post by a Muslim shopkeeper about "an attack plan".

Prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe urged the public not to believe rumours and warned that civil unrest will stretch the already thinly deployed security forces.

He said police and security forces appeared to be overwhelmed and that by the time troops fired in the air to disperse the mobs it was too late for numerous shops targeted.

Mobs moved through towns in the northwest on motorbikes and even in buses, ransacking mosques, burning Korans and attacking shops with petrol bombs, Muslim residents said.

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Hundreds of Palestinians waited at post offices in Gaza City to receive the $100 cash payments, an AFP photographer said. He said "the next escalation is going to be probably the last one" before the sides descend into a full-fledged war.

"The Muslim community huddled in nearby paddy fields, that's how no one died", said one of a group of men gathered outside a white-and-green mosque with smashed windows and doors in the town of Kottampitiya.

"The attacks on mosques, the burning of houses and shops, the attacks on innocent people can not be condoned in any way", Jayasuriya said in a statement.

This is third time in a month that the Sri Lanka government has banned social media services, all to control the spread of misinformation and rumors online.

A state of emergency has been in place since the bombings and security forces have been given sweeping powers to detain suspects.

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

Police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera rejected allegations that police had stood by while the violence unfolded.

"Don't laugh more, 1 day u will cry", he wrote, which local Christians took to be a warning of an impending attack.

"Social media blocked again as a temporary measure to maintain peace in the country", Nalaka Kaluwewa, director general of the government information department, told Reuters on Monday.

Sri Lankan government has banned three Islamist extremist groups, including the National Thowheeth Jama'ath (NTJ) that carried out the country's worst terror attack on Easter Sunday in which over 250 people were killed.

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