COLOMBO, May 13 2019 : Sri Lanka said today it was temporarily blocking some social media networks and messaging apps, including Facebook and WhatsApp, after mosques and Muslim-owned businesses were attacked in the wake of Easter bombings by Islamist militants.
Several dozen people threw stones at mosques and Muslim-owned stores and a man was beaten in the town of Chilaw on the west coast yesterday in a dispute that started on Facebook, sources told Reuters.
Authorities said they arrested the author of a Facebook post, identified as 38-year-old Abdul Hameed Mohamed Hasmar, whose online comment “1 day u will cry” locals said was interpreted as threatening violence.
Authorities arrested a group in the nearby areas of Kuliyapitiya and Dummalasuriya later yesterday and early today for allegedly attacking Muslim-owned businesses, a police source told Reuters.
Military spokesman Sumith Atapattu said people in the area then demanded the arrested men be released.
“To control the situation, a police curfew was imposed during the night,” Atapattu said.
Since then, Muslim groups say they have received dozens of complaints from across the country about people being harassed. Other communities say they are fearful that the government, which failed to act on successive warnings about looming Islamist attacks, has not caught all potential militants.
Sri Lanka has used temporary bans on social media in an attempt to curb misinformation and rumours.
A violent clash erupted a week ago in Negombo, where more than 100 people were killed during Easter prayers, between Muslims and Christians after a traffic dispute.
The government also imposed a ban on social media after that clash. – Reuters