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Buddhist-Muslim clashes continue in Sri Lanka

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Buddhist-Muslim clashes continue in Sri Lanka

Hard-line Buddhists have ties with their counterparts in Myanmar

Despite imposition of state of emergency in Sri Lanka, reports of violent mob attacks by Sinhalese Buddhists against Muslims in various parts of the country are pouring in. Ambetana in the central region witnessed hundreds of attackers shouting slogans and carrying sticks, stones and petrol bombs descending on the hill town. At least fifteen Muslim houses and a mosque were vandalized while several vehicles were set on fire.

According to Aljazeera correspondents in the region residents have said that some two dozen policemen and soldiers watched helplessly as the mob vandalised and set fire to Muslim homes and businesses in the town’s Welekada area in the town.

Fatima Zameera clutching her three-week old infant recounted the violence that swept her neighborhood said, “We were so scared. We have nowhere to go. They broke all the windows in my house. Our whole house is burnt.”

Buddhist-Muslim clashes continue in Sri LankaThe mob between 200 and 500-strong, overran Welekada defying a curfew and a state of emergency imposed by President Maithiripala Sirisena to quell anti-Muslim riots that began in the highland district of Kandy last weekend.

According to Colombo based Daily News, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, while delivering a special statement on the situation in Kandy on Wednesday, said that the Security Forces Chiefs and the Police have been instructed to take prompt action against acts of sabotage and be prepared to control any kind of unrest.

Wickremesinghe said that Security Forces Commander in the Central Province, Major General Rukman Dias has been appointed to coordinate security related activities between the Police and the Security Forces.

He further said that the Tri Forces, the Special Task Force have been deployed in the Kandy district in addition to the Police in order to ensure that the normal life of the community is maintained without any hindrance.

Prime Minister Wickremesinghe said several shops in the Katugastota area had been set on fire on Tuesday. He said that a hand grenade in the possession of a person who was among a group who had been acting violently had exploded. He said these incidents were being investigated by the Police. “In the other areas of the Kandy district, law and order and peace prevailed,” the Premier claimed.

The Premier said that temporary restrictions have been imposed against the use of social media which is being used by some elements to instigate violence by spreading false stories in order to mislead the public and spread hatred.

Read More: Sri Lanka declares  emergency to prevent spread of communal clashes

Sensing the growing trouble ahead, Minister for Public Administration and management Ranjith Madduma Bandara was sworn in as the Minister of Law and Order before President Maithripala Sirisena at the Presidential Secretariat Thursday morning.

Meanwhile, another Colombo based newspaper-The Island reports that Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa has warned that some sinister forces, bent on destabilising the country, were trying to engineer another 1983 style conflagration to drum up international support for their constitutional reforms, aimed at dividing the country into several semi-independent states.

Former President said that the gravitation of a section of the Muslim population towards communal political parties had made it easy for the siniser forces to create tensions between the Sinhalese and Muslims by using agent provocateurs.

“I call on citizens belonging to all communities to reflect intelligently on what has been happening and to refrain from all acts of violence”, he said.

Mahinda Rajpaksa was country’s President from November 2005 to January 2015. He also held Premier’s position from April 2004 to November 2005.

The communal violence began on Sunday when a man belonging to Buddhist Sinhalese majority died after being beaten by some Muslim men over a traffic accident in the town of Teledeniya in Kandy, known for tea plantations and Buddhist religious sites.

On Monday, hundreds of Sinhala Buddhists, mostly outsiders poured into Kandy and attacked and torched dozens of Muslim businesses, houses and mosques. Body of a 23-year-old Muslim man was found in a burned building, and the government, fearing more violence, imposed a state of emergency on Tuesday. It also deployed the army and extended a police curfew in the region.

However, violence continued overnight on Wednesday with “several incidents” in four towns, said Ruwan Gunasekara, a police spokesman. Three police officers were injured in Menikhinna. Later in the day, Ambatenna was attacked and a Sinhalese man was killed there after a hand grenade he was carrying exploded.

Shukry Cassim, whose four-bedroom house was vandalised in Welekada, said he was “petrified”. “We don’t feel safe. All our children are traumatized. We don’t know where to go, or who to trust,” the 27-year-old accountant told Al Jazeera, standing in front of  his burnt car in his garage.

He further said, “We don’t know why this is happening. The mob is not from our area. We don’t know them. But they couldn’t have done this without the support of people from our area because they have targeted the Muslim houses, and excluded the non-Muslim houses.”

Ties between Muslims and Buddhists in the Kandy have been historically harmonious, he said, adding: “We share food during religious festivals, we play together and buy goods from each other’s shops.”

Analysts say tensions flared up between the two communities because of the rise of Buddhist militant groups following the end of the country’s three-decade war. One of these groups Bodu Bala Sena has links to Buddhist hard-line groups in Myanmar.

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Sri Lankan Minister Douglas Devananda says statements on reclaiming Katchatheevu island from Sri Lanka have no ground

Devananda told the media on Thursday that it is not unusual to hear such claims and counterclaims about Katchatheevu as elections are taking place in India.

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Sri Lankan Minister Douglas Devananda has said the statements from some political leaders in India on reclaiming Katchatheevu from the island nation have no ground. He told the media on Thursday that it is not unusual to hear such claims and counterclaims about the strategic island as elections are taking place in India.

The Sri Lankan Minister said he thought India is acting on its interests to secure this place to ensure Sri Lankan fishermen would not have any access to that area and that Sri Lanka should not claim any rights in that resourceful area. According to the 1974 agreement, Devananda said Indian and Sri Lankan fishermen can go fishing in the territorial waters of both countries until the pact was reviewed and amended in 1976.

The amended agreement resulted in fishermen from both countries being barred from fishing in neighboring waters. India’s ministry of External Affairs (MEA) on Thursday steered clear of the row surrounding Katchatheevu island. To a volley of questions on the Katchatheevu issue, MEA spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal reffered to External affairs Minister S Jaishankar’s recent comments on the matter.

He said he would like to talk about the issue that has been raised. He added the External Affairs minister has spoken to the press here in Delhi and also in Gujarat and has clarified all the issues. He said everyone should look into the press engagements and they would find the answers to their questions there.

The remarks from Devananda, a Sri Lankan Tamil, came days after the Narendra Modi government accused the Congress and its ally DMK in Tamil Nadu of overlooking national interests by handing over Katchatheevu island to Sri Lanka in 1974. The BJP has also been slamming the 2 parties for not ensuring the rights of the fishermen wanting to fish in waters around the island.

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US reiterates its call for fair, transparent, legal process for Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal, speaks on Congress frozen accounts

The US spokesperson said that they are also aware of the Congress party’s allegations that tax authorities have frozen some of their bank accounts in a manner that will make it challenging to effectively campaign in the upcoming elections.

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A day after India summoned an US diplomat over their remarks on the arrest of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal in the liquor policy case, the US reiterated its call for fair, transparent, timely legal processes on Wednesday.

Responding to questions on India summoning Gloria Berbena, the US Acting Deputy Chief of Mission in New Delhi, US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said that they will continue to follow these actions closely, including the arrest of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. Notably, the meeting at the foreign ministry’s South Block office lasted nearly 40 minutes yesterday with India objecting strongly to the US remarks on the arrest of Arvind Kejriwal.

Matthew Miller also responded to a question on the Congress party’s frozen bank accounts. The US spokesperson said that they are also aware of the Congress party’s allegations that tax authorities have frozen some of their bank accounts in a manner that will make it challenging to effectively campaign in the upcoming elections. He added that the US encourages fair, transparent and timely legal processes for each of the issues.

Arvind Kejriwal was arrested last week by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in connection to the Delhi liquor policy scam. Earlier, AAP leaders Manish Sisodia, Satyendar Jain and Sanjay Singh were arrested in the same case.

The External Affairs Ministry had earlier stated that states are expected to be respectful of the sovereignty and internal affairs of others, and this responsibility is even more so in case of fellow democracies, adding that it could otherwise end up setting unhealthy precedents.

The Ministry further emphasized that India’s legal processes are based on an independent judiciary which is committed to objective and timely outcomes. It mentioned that casting aspersions on India’s legal procedure is unwarranted.

The United State’s remarks followed days after Germany’s Foreign Office stressed that Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal is entitled to a fair and impartial trial. The Indian government labelled their remark as blatant interference in internal matters.

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5 Chinese nationals killed in suicide bomb attack in Pakistan

This is the third major attack on Chinese interests in Pakistan within a week.

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Nearly five Chinese nationals were killed in an explosion during an attack on their convoy by a suicide bomber in northwest Pakistan on Tuesday. Reportedly, the suicide bomber rammed an explosives-laden vehicle into a convoy of Chinese engineers travelling from Islamabad to their camp in Dasu, situated in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

Regional police chief Mohammad Ali Gandapur said that five Chinese nationals and their Pakistani driver were killed in the attack. As yet, none has claimed responsibility for the attack. Bisham Station House Officer (SHO) Bakht Zahir asserted that the incident was a suicide blast and the authorities concerned were collecting the evidence.

The Station House Officer further added that security arrangements were tightened at the spot and the bodies were being shifted to a hospital. He added that they will investigate from where and how the vehicle of a suicide bomber came and how it happened. Notably, this is the third major attack on Chinese interests in Pakistan within a week.

Previously, two attacks hit an airbase and a strategic port in the southwest province of Balochistan where China is investing billions in infrastructure projects. Several Chinese engineers and Pakistani construction workers have for multiple years been working on hydroelectric projects as part of Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative in the western province of Khyber-Paktunkhwa.

Notably, Dasu is home to a significant dam project, has been a target of previous attacks. Earlier in 2021, the attack in Dasu resulted in the deaths of nine Chinese nationals, along with two Pakistani children. The incident occured when a bus carrying Chinese engineers and workers to the Dasu Hydropower Project site was targeted.

There was confusion surrounding the nature of the attack initially, with some reports suggesting it was a bus accident. Nonetheless, subsequent investigations revealed that it was indeed a terrorist attack. The bus was hit by a blast, leading it to plunge into a ravine.

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