Sri Lanka is temporarily blocking some social media networks and messaging apps, including Facebook and WhatsApp, it said on Monday after attacks on mosques and Muslim-owned businesses in the worst unrest since Easter bombings by Islamist militants.
The government imposed the social media ban after an exchange of accusations between two people on Facebook led to a mob to attack a Muslim-owned shop Sunday in the Catholic-majority town of Chilaw, said Nalaka Kaluwewa, the chief of the Information Department.
The author of the Facebook post, identified as 38-year-old Abdul Hameed Mohamed Hasmar, wrote: "Don't laugh more, 1 day u will cry". "The attacks allegedly occurred while the government had imposed a curfew".
The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attacks, carried out by a local radicalised Muslim group.
Police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera said that the mobs in Chilaw, 80 kilometres north of the capital Colombo, also attacked Muslim-owned businesses. Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, the Archbishop of Colombo, cancelled all masses since the Easter Sunday until the security situation could improve.
Then the crowd surged into the mosque and ransacked it, the witness said. Top security officials also said they believe Hashim and some other suspects travelled to Bengaluru, Kashmir and parts of Kerala in late 2018.
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In a statement , the Senate Intel Committee said: "We do not discuss the details of witness engagements with the Committee". Barr refused to testify before the Democratic-controlled committee last week after a dispute over the hearing's format.
The main body of Islamic clerics, the All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama (ACJU), said there was increased suspicion of Muslims after the Easter Sunday killings. While the Muslim population of Sri Lanka is about seven percent, almost equal to the Christian population, authorities deported 200 foreign imams in the country this month for being in the country illegally after their visas expired, and another 600 people authorities believe could be terror threats are allegedly in the process of being expelled.
Internet service providers said they have been instructed by the telecommunications regulator to block access to Facebook, WhatsApp, YouTube and Instagram.
There had already been clashes last week between Christians and Muslims in Negombo, the town north of Colombo that was targeted by the suicide attackers.
On Sunday, the Catholic Church held the first regular Sunday Mass since the attacks amid tight security.
But attendance has been extremely low, according to education authorities.
Parents had refused to send their children to schools despite repeated assurances from the security establishment that the threats of more attacks had been nullified.