The Sri Lankan government said on Monday it was temporarily blocking some social media networks and messaging apps, including Facebook and WhatsApp, after after a mosque was attacked in the wake of Easter bombings, Reuters reported.
The Sri Lankan police on Sunday imposed curfew with immediate effect in the country’s Christian dominated town of Chilaw after a mosque and few shops owned by Muslims were attacked by a mob. Several dozen people threw stones at mosques and Muslim-owned stores and a man was beaten in a dispute that started on Facebook, sources told Reuters. Sri Lankan media also reported incidents in several nearby areas overnight.
Tensions were brewing in the region after the Easter Sunday bombings in the country in which over 250 people were killed. Since then Muslim groups say they have received dozens of complaints from across the country about people being harassed.
A screenshot of the alleged Facebook exchange seen by Reuters showed a user had written in Sinhalese “It is difficult to make us cry” and added a local slur against Muslim men.
A Facebook user identified as Hasmar Hameed, whom two locals said was the man later arrested, replied in English: “Dont laugh more 1 day u will cry.” Authorities said they arrested the author of a Facebook post, identifying him as 38-year-old Abdul Hameed Mohamed Hasmar. Locals in Chilaw, a majority Christian town, said Hasmar’s post was interpreted as menacing and an angry crowd beat him.
Reuters was unable to determine what the original conversation was about or to contact Hasmar for comment. “Later they pelted stones at three mosques and some Muslim-owned shops. Now the situation has calmed down, but we are scared of the night,” said one local Muslim man who asked to remain anonymous for security reasons.
One mosque suffered extensive damage, he said. Video footage circulating online shows several dozen young men shouting and throwing stones at a clothes store called New Hasmars, which locals said belonged to Hasmar.
Some 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.