Sri Lanka declares state of emergency after Buddhist-Muslim clashes

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena declared a nationwide state of emergency for seven days in a bid to curb communal violence after clashes erupted between majority Buddhists and members of the Muslim minority.

The move came after police said Sinhalese mobs targeted the properties of minority Muslims in eastern and central Sri Lanka, incensed by the death of a Sinhalese truck driver after a clash with Muslim youths in the central Kandy district on Sunday.

It was not clear why the initial altercation occurred but after the driver’s funeral on Monday, a Sinhalese mob attacked Muslim shops, police said. Early on Tuesday the body of a Muslim youth was found in a burnt-out shop, police said.

Tension has been growing between the two communities in Sri Lanka over the past year, with some hardline Buddhist groups accusing Muslims of forcing people to convert to Islam and vandalizing Buddhist archaeological sites.

Some Buddhist nationalists have also protested against the presence in Sri Lanka of Muslim Rohingya asylum-seekers from mostly Buddhist Myanmar, where Buddhist nationalism has also been on the rise.

Muslims make up about 9 percent of Sri Lanka’s 21 million people. Buddhists comprise about 70 percent and ethnic Tamils, most of whom are Hindus, about 13 percent.

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