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Blast kills one in communal violence

Friday, March 09, 2018

COLOMBO - A grenade blast killed one person in further violence between majority Buddhist Sinhalese and minority Muslims in Sri Lanka on Wednesday as the government moved to block social messaging networks in an effort to halt the bloodshed.

The South Asian country has been rocked by communal clashes in its central highlands since Sunday following attacks on Muslims by nationalist Sinhalese crowds.

Communal tensions have grown over the past year with some hardline Buddhist groups accusing Muslims of forcing people to convert to Islam and vandalising Buddhist archaeological sites. Muslim groups deny these allegations.

Some Buddhist nationalists have also protested against the presence in Sri Lanka of Muslim Rohingya asylum seekers from mostly Buddhist Myanmar, where Buddhist nationalism has also been on the rise.

Police declared a curfew until 4pm (1130 GMT) Thursday in the central highlands district of Kandy, epicentre of the violence following the death of a Buddhist youth after an altercation with a group of Muslims.

Buddhist mobs attacked mosques and businesses belonging to Muslims overnight, residents told Reuters on Wednesday, even after President Maithripala Sirisena decreed an emergency for seven days to curb the violence.

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