A mob of Buddhists, who are mainly ethnic Sinhalese in Sri Lanka, threw stones at a three-storey mosque and nearby houses in a central Colombo neighbourhood during evening prayers on Saturday, residents told Reuters.
|The mosque that was vandalised in Colombo. AFP
Later, hundreds of Muslim residents took to the streets, some clutching sticks, to prevent any further attacks on their community, witnesses said. Police reinforcements were sent and authorities imposed a curfew until Sunday morning.
A senior member of staff at one of the city’s main hospitals said 12 injured people, including two police officers, had been brought in. Three people were still in hospital on Sunday.
While appealing for peace, Inspector General of Police N.K. Ilangakoon said, “Support the police to maintain the law and order”.
There has been increasing violence against Muslims in Sri Lanka since last year, mirroring events in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, which has also seen a surge of attacks by members of the majority community against Muslims.
In Myanmar, hardline Buddhist monks have been at the forefront of campaigns against Muslims.
In Sri Lanka, a group known as Bodu Bala Sena (BBS), or the “Buddhist power force”, has been trying to win over Buddhists to their campaign against Muslims.
A spokesman for the BBS, Dilantha Vithanage, denied any involvement by his organisation in the latest mosque attack.
Buddhists make up about 70 percent of Sri Lanka’s 20.3 million population, Muslims make up about 9 percent.
The mosque damaged in the Saturday night attack was only built a month ago after hardline Buddhists forced a nearby mosque to close.
The U.S. Embassy in Colombo said the incident was particularly troubling in light of a number of recent attacks against the Muslim community in Sri Lanka.