Lanka Blocks Social Media As Violence Continues

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Colombo: At least two people have been killed and eight others injured in anti-Muslim violence in a popular tourist district in central Sri Lanka as the government blocked Facebook and other social media services in an effort to quell the violence.

Reports of an attack on a Buddhist temple in Abathanna triggered another day of clashes across Kandy district between members of the country’s mostly Buddhist Sinhala majority and police.

One man died from a heart attack after his shop was attacked and another person is thought to have been killed while trying to attack a mosque, according to police in Katugastota town and sources at the prime minister’s office said.

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Groups of men wielding clubs, some covering their faces, were seen roaming the streets in at least five areas across Kandy on Tuesday as the Sri Lankan president, Maithripala Sirisena, arrived to meet police officials and religious leaders.

Police fired teargas as the rioting spread across the district on Tuesday night. Three officers were wounded in one area, Menikhinna, and seven people were arrested for breaking an indefinite curfew in place across Kandy, a police spokesman, Ruwan Gunasekara, said.

Sri Lanka declares state of emergency after communal violence. Supporters of radical Buddhist nationalist groups have been blamed for days of arson attacks and vandalism against Muslim-owned properties in Kandy which have prompted the government to declare its first state of emergency since the end of the civil war era.

Facebook and other social media services were blocked or restricted across Sri Lanka on Wednesday afternoon to prevent the spread of anti-Muslim posts the government said were helping to fuel the violence, which it has blamed on hardline Buddhist groups accused of bussing supporters into the district.

More than 150 homes, shops and vehicles were estimated to have been destroyed in riots on Monday and Tuesday, which were sparked at the weekend after a group of Muslim men in Digana town allegedly killed a Sinhala man. Sri Lanka’s Sinhala population makes up about three-quarters of the country’s total population.