Sri Lanka arrests 19 after Buddhist-Muslim violence; 4 injured

A house stands vandalized in racial violence near Galle, Sri Lanka, on Saturday, Nov. 18, 2017. (AP Photo)
Updated 18 November 2017
0

Sri Lanka arrests 19 after Buddhist-Muslim violence; 4 injured

COLOMBO: Sri Lankan police arrested 19 people after a clash between “extremists” from the majority Buddhist and minority Muslim communities in which four people were injured, a spokesman said on Saturday.
Tension has been growing between the two communities this year, with some hard-line Buddhist groups accusing Muslims of forcing people to convert to Islam and vandalizing Buddhist archaeological sites.
Some Buddhist nationalists have also protested against the presence in Sri Lanka of asylum seekers from mostly Buddhist Myanmar’s persecuted Rohingya Muslim minority.
Police said the late Friday violence in the southern coastal town of Ginthota was triggered by rumors and fake messages on social media.
“This was a clash between a small fraction of extremists in the both ethnic groups,” police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera told Reuters.
One of those arrested was a woman who falsely spread news that Muslims were about to attack a Buddhist temple, he said.
“We’ve decided to arrest those who have been spreading false messages and rumors on social media.”
Later police said all 19 suspects have been remanded until Nov. 30 and a local curfew had been imposed in the clash area for 12 hours to 0600 hours (0300 GMT) on Sunday.
Law and Order Minister Sagala Ratnayaka said “some political groups are now on a desperate mission to turn this minor brawl into a Sinhala-Muslim clash.”
“I urge the public not to be misled by their false propaganda,” he said.
Additional police battalions, elite police forces, the anti-riot squad and the military were called late on Friday to bring the situation under control.
Buddhists make up about 70 percent of Sri Lanka’s population of 21 million, compared with about 9 percent for Muslims.
President Maithripala Sirisena’s government, after coming under fire from rights groups and diplomats for not doing enough to crack down on hard-line Buddhist groups, acted against anti-Muslim attackers in June this year.
That response came after more than 20 attacks on Muslims, including arson at Muslim-owned businesses and petrol-bomb attacks on mosques, were recorded in two months.
In 2014, three Muslims were killed in riots stirred up by hard-line Buddhist groups.


Bomb kills Afghan election candidate, wounds seven: officials

Updated 32 min 11 sec ago
0

Bomb kills Afghan election candidate, wounds seven: officials

  • Another seven were wounded in the blast
  • The latest attack takes the number of election candidates killed to at least 10, the majority of them murdered in targeted killings

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan: A bomb placed under a sofa killed an Afghan election candidate on Wednesday, officials said, as deadly violence escalates ahead of the October 20 parliamentary ballot.
The Taliban quickly claimed responsibility for the attack, which takes the number of candidates killed so far during the campaign season to at least 10.
Jabar Qahraman had been meeting with supporters in his campaign office in the southern province of Helmand -- a Taliban stronghold -- when the attack happened, provincial governor spokesman Omar Zhwak told AFP.
Another seven people were wounded in the blast in the provincial capital Lashkar Gah.
The bomb had been hidden under Qahraman’s sofa, Zhwak said.
“We have arrested several people in connection with the blast,” he added.
Provincial police spokesman Salam Afghan confirmed the explosion had killed one person and wounded at least two.
Most of the 10 candidates who have died in the lead-up to the election were murdered in targeted killings.
Qahraman was the second candidate killed in Lashkar Gah this month, after Saleh Mohammad Asikzai was among eight people killed in a suicide attack last week.
That incident came a day after the Taliban warned candidates to withdraw from the parliamentary election, which the group has vowed to attack.
Poll-related violence has increased ahead of the long-delayed vote, with hundreds of people killed or wounded in attacks across the country.
Qahraman, a former army general under the Communist regime in the 1980s, had long been in the Taliban’s crosshairs.
President Ashraf Ghani sent Qahraman, a sitting MP, to Helmand as his special envoy in 2016 to help defeat the militant group. Qahraman later resigned.
Preparations for the ballot have been a shambles and with days to go, organizers are still struggling to distribute voting materials to more than 5,000 polling centers.
The election for parliament’s lower house is seen as a dry run for the presidential vote scheduled for April and organizers have said it would not be delayed any further.
It also is seen as a key milestone ahead of a UN meeting in Geneva in November, where Afghanistan will be under pressure to show progress on “democratic processes”.
Almost nine million people have registered to vote, but observers expect far fewer to turn out due to the threat of militant attacks and expectations of widespread fraud.
More than 50,000 members of Afghanistan’s already overstretched security forces are being deployed to protect polling centers on election day.