Fresh anti-Muslim riots erupt in Sri Lanka

Updated 16 June 2014

Fresh anti-Muslim riots erupt in Sri Lanka

COLOMBO: Sri Lankan police clamped a curfew on a coastal resort Sunday after Buddhists attacked Muslims and mosques in the area, leaving several wounded and raising tensions. Muslims have expressed their deep concern over the situation and urged the government to intervene to end the violence.
Police have poured hundreds of reinforcements into Alutgama, 60 km south of the capital Colombo, after the two groups attacked each other with stones -- the latest in a series of religious clashes.
A police spokesman said trouble began when a group led by Buddhist monks tried to march in an area where there is a concentration of Muslims.
"The curfew was declared to bring the situation under control," a police officer in the area told reporters. There were no immediate reports of arrests.
Many activists from both sides as well as bystanders were injured during the evening clashes, according to witnesses who also reported seeing several vehicles smashed.
The latest unrest came weeks after Muslim legislators asked President Mahinda Rajapakse to protect their minority community from "Buddhist extremist elements" blamed for a recent spate of attacks.
Muslims make up about 10 percent of Sri Lanka's 20 million population. Nationalist Buddhist groups have in turn accused minorities of wielding undue political and economic influence.
Senior Buddhist monks have been caught on video threatening violence against their moderate colleagues who advocate tolerance.
Rajapakse, who is a Buddhist, warned monks in January last year not to incite religious violence.

During Sunday’s violence several people are reported to have been injured and shops and mosques burned. Eyewitness accounts tell of Muslims being pulled off local buses and beaten. There are also reports of looting.
The clashes are said to have begun after the rally held by the BBS, the Bodu Bala Sena, or Buddhist Brigade. The gathering came three days after a smaller clash between Muslim youths and a Buddhist monk's driver.
After its rally, the BBS marched into Muslim areas chanting anti-Muslim slogans, reports say, and the police used tear gas to quell the violence. Unconfirmed reports say security forces also used gunfire.
The situation is confusing and there is an air of danger as violence has spread to several areas, a BBC reporter in Aluthgama said.
Sri Lankan media appear to have decided not to report the violence, with sources saying outlets have received "orders from above".
The president has called for an investigation. "The government will not allow anyone to take the law into their own hands. I urge all parties concerned to act in restraint," Rajapakse tweeted.


Australian special forces probed for alleged Afghan war crimes

Updated 25 February 2020

Australian special forces probed for alleged Afghan war crimes

  • 55 separate incidents being investigated as part of a years-long probe into war crime allegations
  • Elite Australian commandos were deployed alongside US and allied forces in Afghanistan following the September 11, 2001 attacks

SYDNEY: Australia is investigating more than 50 alleged war crimes by the country’s special forces in Afghanistan, including the killing of civilians and prisoners, the military watchdog said Tuesday.
An annual report by the Inspector-General of the Australian Defense Force said 55 separate incidents were being investigated as part of a years-long probe into allegations Australian soldiers committed war crimes while serving in Afghanistan.
These relate mainly to unlawful killings of “persons who were non-combatants or were no longer combatants” as well as “cruel treatment” of such persons, the report said.
“The inquiry is not focused on decisions made during the ‘heat of battle’,” it added.
It is also considering “cultural, psychological, operational and organizational factors” surrounding the alleged incidents.
The probe was launched in 2016 in response to what the watchdog called “rumors” of “very serious wrongdoing” over more than a decade by members of Australian special forces in Afghanistan.
Elite Australian commandos were deployed alongside US and allied forces in Afghanistan following the September 11, 2001 attacks. NATO and its allies pulled combat forces from the country in 2014.
The ongoing inquiry, led by judge Paul Brereton, has called 338 witnesses and is now “approaching the final stages of evidence-taking.”
Defense Minister Linda Reynolds told Sky News she expected the watchdog would provide a report to the country’s defense chief within months and he would “decide on appropriate further actions.”
At least four investigations into alleged abuses by Australian special forces in Afghanistan are currently under way.