Six-hour curfew imposed in Sri Lanka as communal violence spreads; social media ban reimposed

Colombo: A six-hour countrywide curfew was enforced in Sri Lanka on Monday as communal violence spread to new areas in the island nation in the latest fallout from the Easter Sunday suicide bombings, which killed nearly 260 people.

"The curfew has been imposed from 9 pm tonight to 4 am tomorrow," a police spokesperson said.

Army chief Mahesh Senanayake said the troops have been instructed to deal very strictly with those who defy the curfew. The army will shoot on sight if anyone defy the order, he added.

 Six-hour curfew imposed in Sri Lanka as communal violence spreads; social media ban reimposed

A Sri Lankan army soldier secures the premises of a Catholic church during Sunday Mass in Colombo. AP

Earlier in the day, the police reimposed a curfew, few hours after it was lifted, on four towns of Kuliyapitiya, Bingiriya, Dummalasuriya and Hettipola in the north western region till 4 am tomorrow following a communal clash in the area. It was later extended to the entire North Western Province as violence continued to spread.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe also appealed for calm after the unrest broke out, especially in Kurunegala district targeting Muslims, and appealed to the public not to be swayed by false information.

"I appeal to all citizens to remain calm and not be swayed by false information. 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," he said.

The Lankan government on Monday also reimposed a ban on social media following violent incidents between the minority Muslim and majority Sinhalese communities in the country.  The blockade of Facebook and WhatsApp comes a day after Sri Lankan police imposed curfew in the country's western coastal town of Chilaw where a mob attacked a mosque and some shops owned by Muslims in a dispute that started on a Facebook post by a Muslim shop owner.

The violence is a new backlash from the Easter attacks where nine suicide bombers, including a woman, carried out a series of devastating blasts that tore through three churches and three luxury hotels, killing 253 people and injuring over 500 others.

The Islamic State terror group claimed the attacks, but the government blamed local Islamist extremist group National Thowheeth Jamaath (NTJ). Sri Lanka banned the NTJ and arrested over 100 people in connection with the blasts.

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Updated Date: May 13, 2019 21:39:28 IST