Sri Lanka declares emergency after violence against Muslims

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Sri Lankan cabinet on Tuesday made a decision to declare a State of Emergency for seven to 10 days. "Additional security has been deployed in the area, the situation is under control", police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera told The Hindu, even as images of violence, which users claimed were from Kandy, flooded social media.

Tensions between the Buddhists and Muslims have been growing over the past year with some hardline Buddhist groups accusing Muslims of forcing people to convert to Islam and vandalising Buddhist archaeological sites.

Sri Lanka has always been divided between the majority Sinhalese, who are overwhelmingly Buddhist, and minority Tamils who are Hindu, Muslim and Christian.

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Muslim-Buddhist fallout: Some 75 percent of Sri Lanka's 21 million residents are Sinhalese, while around 10 percent are Muslim.

Dilantha Vithanage, CEO of the radical Sinhalese-Buddhist organization Budu Bala Sena, said that a BBS team had gone to the troubled Teldeniya and Digana towns in Kandy district and had urged the Sinhalese to calm down.

In 2014, violence between Muslims and Buddhists had erupted in two cities in the southern part of the country and left four people dead and 16 injured.

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The emergency announcement came after Buddhist mobs swept through the towns outside Kandy, burning at least 11 Muslim-owned shops and homes. Early on Tuesday the body of a Muslim youth was found in a burnt-out shop, police said.

President Maithripala Siresena had vowed to investigate anti-Muslim crimes after assuming power in 2015, but no significant progress has been reported. Muslims are mainly concentrated in Ampara, Trincomalee and Batticaloa districts.

Making a special statement over the inter-communal clashes, he assured action against the elements which spread violence at a time when the government was taking measures to establish political stability, peace among communities and reconciliation in the country. "As a country that had suffered by acts of violence for almost three decades, we as a nation should desist from repetition of such", Director General of Government Information Department Sudarshana Gunawardhana said.

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The Sri Lankan authorities must respect human rights under the state of emergency, Amnesty International said today.

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