Easter Sunday Bombings: Man hacked to death in Sri Lanka communal riots

A Sri Lankan police officer stands guard at the main entrance of the St. Theresa's church as the Catholic churches hold services again after the Easter attacks in Colombo

With communal violence also reported in Sri Lanka's west, the government imposed a nationwide curfew Monday and temporarily blocked social media and messaging apps.

Police will take stern action against rioters and constables have been issued with orders to use maximum force, Police Chief Chandana Wickramaratne warned in a televised address after rampaging mobs set fire to Muslim-owned shops and vehicles.

The attacks committed on this weekend of 11 May follow deadly attacks carried out on Easter Sunday of 21 April 2019, against churches and hotels in various parts of the country in which more than 200 people were killed and hundreds were injured.

The Islamic State group has said it was involved but has given no details.

The Prime Minister said: "Security forces are working tirelessly to apprehend terrorists and ensure the security of the country, but each time there is civil unrest, we increase their burden and hamper ongoing investigations".

They said there were sporadic incidents of mobs throwing stones and torching motorcycles and cars owned by Muslims.

Militant Buddhist groups have cultivated anti-Muslim sentiment in Sri Lanka for years, sparking fears soon after the Easter bombings that such groups would use the attacks as justification to incite violence against Sri Lankan Muslims. "If we lose ourselves in violence, racism, thuggery and hatred we lose our country".

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

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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.

Muslims make up around 10 percent of Buddhist-majority Sri Lanka's 21 million population and Christians about 7.6 percent.

Among those detained was Amith Weerasinghe, a man from Sri Lanka´s majority Buddhist Sinhalese community and on bail for his role in similar riots in March a year ago in the central Kandy district. All the windows and doors of the soft-pink building were smashed and copies of the Qur'an were thrown onto the floor.

The witness said the crowd then surged into the mosque and ransacked it.

'The curfew in the NWP will be continued until further notice, ' spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera said.

The latest wave of unrest started when a mob targeted Muslim-owned shops in the town of Chilaw, 80km north of Colombo, on Sunday in anger at a Facebook post by a shopkeeper.

"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.

Muslims form almost 10 percent of Sri Lanka's 22 million people who are predominantly Sinhalese Buddhists, with a sprinkling of minority Hindus and Christians.

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