Muslims offer prayers in Kandy under Sri Lankan Army protection


Sri Lankan troops today guarded mosques and facilitated Friday prayers as authorities stepped up security in the violence-hit Muslim neighbourhoods in Kandy district after four days of riots that have left at least two people dead.
Several homes, businesses and mosques in the hilly Kandy district have been damaged in anti-Muslim riots, since Monday. The violence erupted after the death of a Buddhist Sinhalese man last week. To rein in communal violence, a state of emergency has been imposed by President Maithripala Sirisena’s government for the first time in the past seven years.
Authorities have also blocked internet access across the famous tourist district and disrupted Facebook and messaging platforms after police said they were used to instigate communal violence.
Police said as no major incidents of violence have been reported from the troubled areas since yesterday, so the curfew has been lifted from Kandy town.
"The curfew, however, would be in force between 8 pm tonight till 5 am tomorrow in the Kandy district, except in the Kandy Municipality areas," Police spokesman SP Ruwan Gunasekera said.
A large number of Muslim-owned businesses in the island nation remained shut in protest against attacks by mainly Buddhist Sinhalese, but some shops in the Muslim neighbourhood in the town opened today.
Army personnel and police constables patrolled outside mosques in Kandy where prayers were offered in open grounds in many places because mosques had been burnt or vandalised.
About 3,000 police, 2,500 army personnel and 750 special task forces have been deployed in Kandy to bring the situation under control.
The situation was tense amid fears that more clashes may break out after the Friday prayers, but "no such incidents were reported," the police official said, adding that 65 more people have been arrested till this morning.
Yesterday, 81 people were arrested, including the main suspect, for inciting violence against Muslims.
With this, total number of people arrested is 146 for taking part in violence, Gunasekera said.
Army Commander Lt Gen Mahesh Senanayake also said in Kandy that a soldier in active military service had also been arrested for taking part in violence against the Muslims.
"He had been on leave and taken part in the riots. Disciplinary action will be taken against him," the Army chief said. 

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