- Eyewitness accounts tell of Muslims being pulled off local buses and beaten.
- There are also reports of looting.
- Witnesses say Muslim homes and a mosque were stoned.
- Sri Lankan media received “orders from above” not to report the violence.
The Sri Lankan authorities have imposed a curfew on two southern towns to quell clashes between a hardline Buddhist group and Muslims.
When the Muslims in the area started reacting to the protest, things took a violent turn, a senior police officer said. Several people are reported to have been injured, shops burned and stones thrown at Buddhist marchers there. The clashes are said to have begun after the rally held by the BBS, the Bodu Bala Sena, or Buddhist Brigade supported by Defence Minister Gotha Rajapaksha.
The clash occurred following a protest organized by the Bodu Bala Sena this evening where the BBS accused a Muslim group of assaulting a Buddhist monk. Addressing the gathering, BBS General Secretary Galagodaaththe Gnanasara Thera strongly criticized the Muslims in the area and said they were inciting violence.
Journalists who were in Aluthgama when the clash occurred said it showed the signs of a mini-battle. However, the Police swiftly announced a police curfew in the area to bring the situation under control. Meanwhile, Police have now taken measures to provide security to all the mosques across the country.
“It is now clear who (Sinhala Buddhists) the traitors are. We urge Muslims to remain calm. Also, we highly appreciate quick action by Police. We also urge them to act the same manner in the future”, SLMC Leader Minister Rauff Hakeem said addressing the national convention of the party this evening. In the past insidents police had turned a blind eye and let the Buddhists extremist take upper hand due political support they had received from Rajapaksha family since LTTE was killed in May 2009.
Meanwhile, Police curfew has also been imposed in Beruwala after several mini scale clashes reported in the area this evening.
The situation is confusing and there is an air of danger as violence has spread to several areas, a BBC reporter in Aluthgama says.
Tension has recently been high between the two sides, with Muslims calling on the government to protect them from Buddhist-inspired hate attacks, and Buddhist accusing minorities of enjoying too much influence. Muslims make up about 10 per cent of Sri Lanka’s 20 million population.