Colombo tense after Buddhist mob attacks mosque

Colombo: A section of Sri Lanka's capital was tense Sunday after a mosque was attacked by a group led by Buddhist priests, in another standoff between the two communities, an official said.

The as yet unidentified group attacked the three-story mosque during prayer time Saturday night by throwing stones, reports Xinhua.

Several houses and vehicles parked adjacent to the mosque, located in the Grandpass area of Colombo, were damaged by the mob.

Witnesses told reporters that the group was led by a Buddhist priest. The media noted that at least eight people, including two policemen, had been injured in the attack.

A police curfew was imposed after the incident, with heavy police and Special Forces security provided to the site.

The Sunday Times reported that Colombo Mayor A.J.M. Muzammil, who reached the scene to ease the tension, had to be escorted out under police protection after restive crowds, many of them Muslims, jeered and attacked his vehicle.

Justice Minister Rauff Hakeem, who is also the leader of Sri Lanka's main Muslim party, rushed to Colombo Saturday night from Kandy to take the matter up with government leaders.

His media spokesman said Hakeem met the police chief, who has plans to hold a "peace council" including Muslim and Sinhalese representatives in a bid to resolve the situation.

Residents claim the mosque was illegally constructed. About a month ago members of Sri Lanka's extremist Buddhist group Sihala Ravaya had demanded its removal.

Mosque authorities had requested a month to find new venue but the removal had not taken place.

The is the latest sparking point between the Sinhala Buddhist extremists and the island's Muslim community, which forms about 10 percent of the total population.

Earlier this year, the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) successfully agitated to remove the Halal certification process from food products and is currently campaigning to ban cattle slaughter, a common trade among Muslims.

The BBS and Sihala Ravaya have also previously attacked Muslim businesses and called on the Sinhalese majority to boycott Muslim shops.

 

IANS