Sri Lanka steps up security ahead of Friday prayers

Sri Lankan authorities declared a state of emergency after a string of violent anti Muslim incidents left at least two people dead

Protesting against the recent attacks, five women's groups from the Tamil and Muslim majority north and east of Sri Lanka called for an end to the violence and grief in a country that has experienced 30 years of ethnic strife. In an email interview, Neil DeVotta, a professor of politics and global affairs at Wake Forest University in North Carolina and an expert on ethnic conflict in South Asia, explains what is behind the tensions and why the government has done more to fan the flames than put out the fire.

"There is some fear among Muslims that they could be targeted ..."

In the 24 hours to 6am (0030 GMT) on Friday, six properties were reported to have been damaged while 65 people were arrested across Kandy, Gunasekara said. Eleven mosques were attacked.

Kandy residents said that shops and offices were open on Friday, and life was slowly returning to normal.

To rein in communal violence, a state of emergency has been imposed by President Maithripala Sirisena's government.

Troops guarded every junction while security personnel carried out patrols on motorcycles and in armoured personnel carriers.

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More than 200 homes, businesses and vehicles have been torched in three days of violence, according to the Agence France Presse news agency, although unconfirmed reports say the number could be slightly higher, given that minor incidents were still occurring.

Internet services, which were blocked across Kandy, were restored on Friday, but access to social media sites, such as Facebook, remained blocked across Sri Lanka. There were no casualties.

Ethnic and communal riots in Sri Lanka targeting the country's Muslims, who account for 7% of the population, threaten post-civil war peace and stability in the country.

The Tourist Board said it was safe for foreign tourists to visit Kandy, but hotel operators say they have suffered large-scale cancellations. In a parliamentary address Wednesday, Sri Lanka Muslim Congress Leader Rauff Hakeem, who is also minister of city planning and water supply, strongly criticized the police force for their inaction and failure to contain the situation.

Sinhalese and Muslim groups staged a demonstration outside the Colombo railway station on Thursday, demanding tougher action against the attackers.

The Sinhalese Buddhists are about 75 per cent of Sri Lankas 21 million population while Muslims are 10 per cent of the population.

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