March 6 (UPI) — Sri Lanka declared a state of emergency Tuesday after violence erupted between Sinhalese and Muslim communities.
Officials said soldiers will be deployed to civilian areas for ten days, and a curfew was put in place.
Sri Lanka’s government condemned recent arson attacks and riots in the central district of Kandy — which damaged some places of worship, residences and businesses. Similar violence occurred last month when mobs set fire to Muslim-owned businesses and a mosque.
“The government also condemned the hate and mischievous targeting the Muslim community in particular and another as well, with the clear objective of creating among communities and inciting violence,” officials said in a statement.
“The government urged for total cooperation from all citizens irrespective of any communal, religious differences to build a nation that is stable, peaceful and the progressive where diversity is respected.”
Tensions flared in the country after a group of Muslim men were accused of killing a Buddhist man. The body of a 24-year-old Muslim man was later found in the town of Digana.
Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe tweeted Monday that the government would not hesitate to take action against the violence.
“As a nation that endured a brutal war we are all aware of the values of peace, respect, unity & freedom,” Wickremesinghe said.
Alan Keenan, a Sri Lanka specialist with the International Crisis Group, said radical Buddhist groups — who make up 75 percent of the population — have targeted Muslims with “a significant degree of regularity” in the last five years.
“One of the key underlying elements is the sense that many Sinhalese and Buddhists have is that Sri Lanka is a Sinhalese and Buddhist island and other community, Muslims and Tamils, are here on the sufferance of the majority,” Keenan said.