UPDATED: Religious tension escalates in Sri Lanka, social media networks blocked

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Police have imposed a curfew in the Sri Lankan town Chilaw after a dispute between Christians and Muslims, that began on Facebook, turned violent.

In the meantime, Sri Lankan authorities on Monday temporarily blocked some social media networks and messaging apps, including Facebook and WhatsApp, after attacks on mosques and Muslim-owned businesses in the worst unrest since Easter bombings by Islamist militants.
On Twitter, Sri Lanka’s leading mobile phone operator Dialog Axiata Plc said it had also received instructions to block the apps Viber, IMO, Snapchat, Instagram and Youtube until further notice.

Tensions have been running high after Muslim suicide bombers blew themselves up in three churches and four hotels on April 21, Easter Sunday, killing 257 people.

Mobs threw stones at mosques and Muslim-owned stores on Sunday after residents believed a posting on the social media site was a threat to Christians.

Residents in the mainly Christian town 80km north of the capital Colombo, beat the man they believed was responsible for the Facebook post. Police said he had been arrested.

A week ago in Negombo, where more than 100 people were killed during Easter prayers, a violent clash erupted between local Muslims and Christians after a traffic dispute.

Sri Lanka has been under a state of emergency since the suicide bombings. Security forces and police have been given sweeping powers to arrest and detain suspects for long periods.

One of the latest to be arrested was Mohamed Aliyar, Saudi-educated scholar. Police claim he had links with Zahran Hashim, the suspected ringleader of the bombings.

While the country’s acting police chief Chandana Wickramaratn said last week that all those involved in the attacks are either dead or in custody, some Sri Lankans are concerned there may still be attackers at large.


Via Al Jazeera

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