Sri Lanka imposes curfew in western coastal town after communal clashes

Sri Lanka imposes curfew in western coastal town after communal clashes

Sri Lankan police on Sunday imposed curfew with immediateeffect in the country's western coastal town of Chilaw after a mosque and fewshops owned by Muslims were attacked by a mob, authorities said.

The curfew has been imposed till 6 am Monday as aprecaution, the police said.

Additional troops have been deployed in the city to bringthe situation under control, they said.

Tension was brewing since Saturday between the Catholics andMuslims in the Christian dominated town. This is a fallout from the EasterSunday attacks in which over 250 people were killed.

Nine suicide bombers, including a woman, carried out aseries of devastating blasts that tore through three churches and three luxuryhotels, killing 258 people and injuring over 500 others on the Easter Sunday.

The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, butthe government has blamed local Islamist extremist group, the National ThawheedJama'ath (NTJ), for the bombings.

Some inflammatory exchanges happened between the twocommunities in the town since Saturday, the residents said.

A Catholic woman claimed that she was threatened inside aMuslim-owned shop.

Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, the Archbishop of Colombo,cancelled all masses since the Easter Sunday until the security situation couldimprove.

It was just this morning that churches resumed their normalSunday services since the attack.

Early this month, several people were injured in clashesbetween Muslims and Christians in Negombo, a majority Christian town where St.Sebastian's Church was targeted during the Easter attacks.

After clashes in Negombo, Cardinal Ranjith appealed toChristians and other communities to show restraint.

"I appeal to all Catholic and Christian brothers andsisters not to hurt even a single Muslim person because they are our brothers,because they are part of our religious culture," said Ranjith.

"Therefore please avoid hurting them and try to createa better spirit of understanding and good relations between all the communitiesof Sri Lanka."

In his address to the nation after the Easter Sunday blasts,President Maithripala Sirisena called on the public to refrain from looking atthe Muslim community with a suspicious eye following the attacks.

"It was only a small group which had engaged in suchacts of terror," he added.

Sri Lanka has a population of 21 million which is apatchwork of ethnicities and religions, dominated by the Sinhalese Buddhistmajority.

Muslims account for 10 per cent of the population and arethe second-largest minority after Hindus. Around seven per cent of Sri Lankansare Christians.

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