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SRI LANKAN President Maithripala Sirisena declared a state of emergency today amid fears that anti-Muslim attacks in several central hill towns could spread.
Details of the emergency decree were not immediately announced and it was unclear how it would affect life on the island, where Buddhist-Muslim tensions have flared in recent years with the growth of extremist Buddhist organisations.
The areas where the violence erupted yesterday, outside the town of Kandy, remained under curfew today, with soldiers and police patrolling the streets and no-one allowed outside except for in emergencies.
President Sirisena’s office said the decree would “redress the unsatisfactory security situation prevailing in certain parts of the country.”
It said the country’s security forces “have been suitably empowered to deal with criminal elements in the society and urgently restore normalcy.”
While government officials did not specifically mention Buddhist extremists, many comments appeared aimed at them.
The government will “act sternly against groups that are inciting religious hatred,” cabinet minister Rauff Hakeem said after a meeting with the president.
The emergency announcement was made after Buddhist mobs swept through the towns outside Kandy, burning at least 11 Muslim-owned shops and homes.
The attacks followed reports that a Buddhist man had been killed by a group of Muslims. Police fired tear gas into the crowds and later announced a curfew.
So far, no violence has been reported elsewhere.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said the government condemned the “racist and violent acts.
“As a nation that endured a brutal [civil] war, we are all aware of the values of peace, respect, unity and freedom,” he said on Twitter.
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