Grenade kills one as social media blocked

Sri Lankan Muslims inspect their fire-gutted property in Kandy.
Sri Lankan Muslims inspect their fire-gutted property in Kandy.

A grenade blast has killed one person in further violence between majority Buddhist Sinhalese and minority Muslims in Sri Lanka despite the government's blocking of social media in efforts to halt the bloodshed.

The South Asian country has been rocked by communal clashes in its central highlands since Sunday following attacks on Muslims by nationalist Sinhalese crowds.

Communal tensions have grown over the past year with some hardline Buddhist groups accusing Muslims of forcing people to convert to Islam and vandalising Buddhist archaeological sites. Muslim groups deny these allegations.

Police declared a curfew until 4pm Thursday in the central highlands district of Kandy, the epicentre of the violence since Sunday in the wake of the death of a Buddhist youth in an altercation with a group of Muslims.

Buddhist mobs attacked mosques and businesses belonging to Muslims overnight, residents told Reuters on Wednesday, even after President Maithripala Sirisena decreed an emergency for seven days to curb the violence.

Police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekara said there had been several disturbances throughout Tuesday night in the Kandy area, renowned for its tea plantations and scenic hills.

"One person was killed and three were injured during the day after a hand grenade exploded," Gunasekara said. Police have arrested seven people and three police officers were injured in the incidents, he said.

The severed head of a youth was found in a mainly Muslim area in the capital Colombo, adding to tensions, residents said. Police said they were investigating.

Some of the violence has been instigated by Facebook postings that threatened more attacks on Muslims, the government said. On Wednesday, it said Facebook, Viber and Whatsapp would be blocked across Sri Lanka for three days.

The crisis spurred opposition parties to shelve a no- confidence motion against Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe for alleged mismanagement of the economy that was originally set to be filed on Monday.

On a visit to Kandy, President Maithripala Sirisena urged religious leaders to do more to rebuild inter-communal peace.

Australian Associated Press