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Sri Lanka declares state of emergency as mobs attack Muslim communities

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Sri Lanka declares state of emergency as mobs attack Muslim communities

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Sri Lanka declares a state of emergency after mob attacks on Muslim communities by hardline Buddhists.

A curfew has been put in place in the central district of Kandy after groups of Buddhists attacked Muslim-owned businesses, homes and a mosque.

Soldiers will be deployed in civilian areas for an initial ten days, as authorities fear further clashes and potential retaliation.

A young Muslim man's body was found in a burned- out building on Tuesday.

Muslims make up just under 10% of the population, which is nearly 70% Sinhalese Buddhist.

National identity

Tensions between the two groups have grown in Sri Lanka since 2012, said to be fuelled by Buddhist extremists and backed by the nationalist Buddhist organisation, Bodu Bala Sena (BBS).

The BBS was founded by monks in 2012 and is based at a Buddhist cultural centre in the Sri Lankan capital, Colombo.

BBS supporters accuse Muslims of forcing people to convert to Islam and of vandalising religious sites.

They are also unhappy with the amount of displaced Rohingya seeking asylum in Sri Lanka, after fleeing persecution in mostly Buddhist Myanmar.

In September, the United Nations raised concern for the safety of Rohingya Muslim asylum seekers in Sri Lanka after Buddhist monks and hardline nationalists forced them to flee a U.N. shelter in Colombo.

‘Hold accountable’

Human rights group Amnesty International warned that the state of emergency would give the government a series of sweeping powers including to search, arrest, and detain.

Amnesty International’s South Asia Director said in a statement: “It is important that the authorities take action against mobs who have incited hatred and carried out acts of violence against religious minorities. They have a duty to protect vulnerable groups and hold the perpetrators accountable. But a state of emergency must not become a pretext for further human rights abuses”

The country was under a decades-long state of emergency during the civil war- when the government fought Tamil rebels.