At least 1 Muslim killed in riots: Sri Lankan minister

A Sri Lankan army soldier stands guard after mobs attacked Muslim-owned shops at the Poruthota village in Negombo last week

Mobs slashed to death a Sri Lankan Muslim man despite a nationwide curfew imposed on Monday night after anti-Muslim riots spread to three districts north of the capital in a violent backlash against Easter suicide bombings.

The latest rioting came three weeks after a string of suicide bomb attacks against three Christian churches and three luxury hotels, leaving 258 people dead and almost 500 wounded.

A Muslim man was stabbed to death during the recent spate of violence.

Sri Lankan soldiers patrol a road of Hettipola on top of an armored vehicle, after a mob attack in a mosque in the nearby village of Kottampitiya, Sri Lanka May 14, 2019.

Police and troops fought off hundreds of rioters in at least six towns earlier Monday with teargas.

But Muslims in North-West Province remained nervous and stayed indoors Wednesday, after sword-wielding rioters killed one man late Monday while vandalising scores of shops and mosques.

"He was the main technology person for them", said one of the Sri Lankan police Criminal Investigation Department sources involved in the investigation.

"The intention of these groups who are causing violence is to cause disruption in public life, and destabilize the country", he said.

A state of emergency has been in place since the Easter bombings and security forces have been given sweeping powers to detain suspects.

Authorities imposed a temporary ban on social media networks and messaging apps after a clash in another part of the country was traced to a dispute on Facebook.

It was later extended to the entire North Western Province as violence continued to spread.

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Sri Lanka has a population of 21 million which is a patchwork of ethnicities and religions, dominated by the Sinhalese Buddhist majority.

Among those detained was Amith Weerasinghe, a man from Sri Lanka´s majority Buddhist Sinhalese community and on bail for his role in similar riots in March a year ago in the central Kandy district.

Glass was strewn across the Abrar mosque in the town of Kiniyama that was attacked overnight.

"Mobs had attacked him with sharp weapons at his carpentry workshop", a police official told the AFP news agency.

Authorities suspect lakes and wells are being used as hiding places to hide weapons.

They accused the security forces and the police for becoming silent watchers to the rioting.

But they came back, and this time there were about 1,300 people.

Then the crowd surged into the mosque and ransacked it, the witness said.

"They destroyed and burnt Qurans, broke every glass window and door and urinated on the water storage, which Muslims used to take ablution", he said.

Ruwan Gunasekera, a police spokesman, said that more than 80 people were in custody as of Tuesday evening.

Video footage of the unrest showed burning shops as mobs armed with sticks and stones roamed the streets attacking Muslim-owned shops.

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