The head of Sri Lanka’s Catholic Church yesterday appealed for calm after sporadic violence between Christian and Muslims north of Colombo prompted police to impose a curfew.
In the first such violence since the April 21 bombings of three churches and three hotels by Muslim militants that killed 257 people, several Muslim homes and vehicles were damaged in Negombo.
Authorities were yet to confirm any arrests or injuries in the clashes, but videos circulated on social media showed groups throwing stones at Muslim businesses, destroyed furniture inside homes, shattered windows and overturned vehicles.
Reporters were unable to immediately verify the footage.
A few hundred extra troops and police were deployed late on Sunday as authorities imposed a nighttime curfew in the town.
“I appeal to all Christians, Buddhists and Muslims to be patient, show restraint and ensure the peace we maintained after the Easter bombings,” Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith said on national television yesterday.
The Sri Lankan government blocked access to social media platforms such as WhatsApp and Facebook to prevent what it called the spread of rumors and videos aimed at instigating religious riots.
More than 100 people died at Negombo’s St Sebastian church, the highest number of casualties in the April 21 attacks.
The curfew was lifted yesterday morning and police said an investigation into the evening clashes was under way.
Public schools reopened after an extended Easter holiday, with heavily armed police and troops guarding schools and imposing parking restrictions.
The country has been under a state of emergency since the Easter bombings.
Security forces and police have been give sweeping powers to arrest and detain suspects.
The government has blamed the Easter bombings on a local jihadist organization that has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group.
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