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Sri Lanka blocks social media after more unrest

COLOMBO Sri Lanka is temporarily blocking some social media networks and messaging apps, including Facebook and WhatsApp, after attacks on mosques and Muslim-owned businesses.

Several dozen people threw stones at mosques and Muslim-owned stores and a man was beaten in the Christian-majority town of Chilaw on the west coast on Sunday in a dispute that started on Facebook, sources said.

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" was interpreted as threatening violence.

Authorities also arrested a group of men in the nearby Kurunegala district for allegedly attacking Muslim-owned businesses, a police source told Reuters.

"To control the situation, a police curfew was imposed during the night," military spokesman Sumith Atapattu said.

Several mosques and Muslim homes were damaged in the attack, the Muslim Council of Sri Lanka said, but the precise extent of damage was not clear.

"Social media blocked again as a temporary measure to maintain peace in the country," Mr Nalaka Kaluwewa, Director General of the Government Information Department, told Reuters yesterday.

On Twitter, Sri Lanka's leading mobile phone operator Dialog said it had also received instructions to block the apps Viber, IMO, Snapchat, Instagram and Youtube until further notice.

The country is still picking up the pieces after the carnage on Easter Sunday last month when suicide bombers from a little-known local militant Islamist group killed around 253 people at churches and top-end hotels across Sri Lanka.

- REUTERS

WORLD