Two Injured As Gunman Attacks French Mosque

FILES) A file photo taken on March 5, 2015 shows a room in the Mosque of Bayonne, southwestern France.  Iroz Gaizka / AFP

 

Two people were injured on Monday when shots were fired near a mosque in Bayonne in southwest France, police said, adding the suspected gunman has been arrested.

The man was arrested near his home after the incident that also involved a small explosion, presumably from a petrol can set on fire near the place of worship on Monday afternoon.

According to the police authorities, the suspect is an 84-year-old man who shot and seriously wounded two other men in their 70s.

The octogenarian opened fire when the two men, aged 74 and 78, came upon him trying to set fire to the mosque’s door on Monday afternoon, the police department said in a statement.

The victims were brought to a nearby hospital with serious injuries, while the suspected shooter was later arrested near his home.

The mosque has been cordoned off for investigations.

The incident came just hours after President Emmanuel Macron had urged France’s Muslim community to step up the fight against “separatism” in the wake of the latest attack by an Islamist radical on French soil, in which a police employee stabbed four colleagues to death.

There have been intermittent attacks on mosques in France since 2007, when 148 Muslim headstones in a national military cemetery near Arras were smeared with anti-Islamic slurs and a pig’s head was placed among them.

In June this year, a gunman wounded an imam in a shooting at a mosque in the northwestern city of Brest, but police ruled out a terror motive.

In March, workers building a mosque in the small southwestern town of Bergerac found a pig’s head and animal blood at the entrance to the site — two weeks after a gunman killed 50 Muslims in Christchurch, New Zealand, in a shooting spree at two mosques.

Mosques were also targeted after the killing of 12 people at the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine in 2015 by Islamist radicals. Dozens of mosques were attacked by arsonists, others with firebombs, grenades or gunfire.

AFP

16 Killed In Burkina Faso Mosque Attack

FILES) In this file photo taken on March 02, 2019 Burkinabe soldiers take part in a ceremony in Ouagadougou. ISSOUF SANOGO / AFP

 

Armed men stormed a mosque in the volatile north of Burkina Faso as worshippers were at prayer, killing 16 people and sending residents fleeing, security sources and locals said Saturday.

The attack on the Grand Mosque in the town of Salmossi on Friday evening underscores the difficulties faced by the country in its battle against jihadists.

One source said 13 people died on the spot and three succumbed to their injuries later. Two of the wounded are in critical condition.

“Since this morning, people have started to flee the area,” one resident from the nearby town of Gorom-Gorom said.

He said there was a “climate of panic despite military reinforcements” that were deployed after the deadly attack.

Although hit by jihadist violence, many Burkinabes oppose the presence of foreign troops — notably from former colonial ruler France — on their territory.

On Saturday, a crowd of about 1,000 people marched in the capital Ouagadougou “to denounce terrorism and the presence of foreign military bases in Africa.”

“Terrorism has now become an ideal pretext for installing foreign military bases in our country,” said Gabin Korbeogo, one of co-organisers of the march.

“The French, American, Canadian, German and other armies have set foot in our sub-region, saying they want to fight terrorism. But despite this massive presence… the terrorist groups… are growing stronger.”

Until 2015, the poor West African country Burkina Faso was largely spared violence that hit Mali and then Niger, its neighbours to the north.

But jihadists — some linked to Al-Qaeda, others to the so-called Islamic State group — started infiltrating the north, then the east, and then endangered the southern and western borders of the landlocked country.

Combining guerrilla hit-and-run tactics with road mines and suicide bombings, the insurgents have killed nearly 600 people, according to a toll compiled by AFP.

Civil society groups put the number at more than 1,000, with attacks no taking place on almost a daily basis.

Burkina’s defence and security forces are badly-equipped, poorly trained and have shown themselves to be unable to put a halt to the increasing violence.

France has a force of 200 in Burkina Faso but also intervenes frequently as part of its regional Barkhane operation.

Almost 500,000 people have fled their homes because of the violence, according to the UN refugee agency, which has warned of a humanitarian crisis affecting 1.5 million people.

Almost 3,000 schools have closed, and the impact on an overwhelmingly rural economy is escalating, disrupting trade and markets.

AFP

We Did Not Demolish Any Mosque In Port Harcourt – Wike

Rivers Governor, Nyesom-Wike

 

Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike has described as unfortunate the ‘false Information’ being circulated that the State Government demolished a Mosque in Port Harcourt, saying that the report was planted by mischief makers to create disaffection.

Addressing journalists at the location on Biambo Street Off, School Road by Mami Market Junction, near Rainbow Estate on Monday., Governor Wike said there was no Mosque on ground, hence nothing was demolished.

He said: “I received calls from several prominent Nigerians 8on the fake news being circulated online. I have come here with Reporters and you can see there was no Mosque here.

“It is most unfortunate that fickle minded persons will claim that a Mosque was demolished at this place, when no Mosque existed here. The story was concocted by mischief makers to score cheap points”.

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Governor Wike explained that some persons started erecting illegal foundation at the disputed land, even though they had no approval to embark on any construction work.

“They came here to erect illegal structure. There was no approval from the State Government for any structure to be erected here.

“The persons who started the foundation had already dragged the State Government to court on the disputed land. The Rivers State Government won the case. What they attempted to do was to start the illegal construction to tie the hands of the State Government “, he said.

The Governor urged the Muslim Community in Rivers State to show him where a Mosque was demolished in the State. He advised them not to allow themselves to be used by politicians to peddle false stories against the Rivers State Government..

Governor Wike said that the State Government operates within the rule of law. He said that the State Government will not be distracted by the illegal circulation of fake reports.

He stated that several Mosques constructed on the approval of the State Government exist across Port Harcourt and other major towns of Rivers State, without the State Government demolishing them.

“The government gave them notice not to do anything on the land. But they went ahead with the illegal foundation and the relevant agency stopped them.

“Why would want to bring down any Mosque , when there are other Mosques across the State? What is the Special interest on this one?

Germany Considers ‘Mosque Tax’ To Replace Foreign Funding

 

Support is growing in Germany for a “mosque tax” to make Islamic institutions less dependent on potentially anti-democratic or “radical” foreign funding sources, a media report said Sunday.

The federal government sees it as “a possible path”, according to an answer to a parliamentary query, the Welt am Sonntag newspaper reported.

Several of Germany’s 16 states had also signalled support in principle for the idea which would mirror Germany’s voluntary Christian “church tax”, the rnewspaper said.

Concern has grown in Germany about the influence of foreign funding sources on mosques for the country’s estimated five million Muslims, who hail mostly from Turkey and Arab countries.

Some 900 mosques in Germany are run by the Turkish-Islamic Union of the Institute for Religion (Ditib), under the authority of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government.

Its imams are paid by the Turkish state, and the group has come under scrutiny with some of its members suspected of spying on Turkish dissidents living in Germany.

At the height of a bitter row between Germany and Turkey in mid-2017, two German ministers warned in a Spiegel Online commentary that Erdogan’s “dangerous ideologies must not be imported to Germany via certain mosques.”

In other cases, some mosques have come under police scrutiny or been closed for preaching radical and militant Islamist ideas.

Welt am Sonntag said that, in the newspaper’s own survey, several states had affirmed that mosque communities in Germany should be able to finance themselves.

The interior ministry of the regional state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania had said it was open to “mosque financing based on the church model” to reduce the foreign influence, including “the danger of possible radicalisation”.

A spokesman for the interior ministry of Baden-Wuerttemberg state had also pointed to the threat of outside influence “on theological content and political opinion”.

“In the worst case”, the spokesman had told the newspaper, this included “radical Islamist or anti-democratic content or aspirations”.

AFP

Indonesia Rejects Appeal Of Woman Jailed Over Mosque Noise Complaint

 

Indonesia’s Supreme Court on Monday rejected an appeal by a woman sentenced to 18 months in jail under the country’s controversial blasphemy law for complaining about the volume of a mosque’s call to prayer.

Meiliana, 44, an ethnic Chinese Buddhist, was found guilty of insulting Islam for asking her neighbourhood mosque in Medan, on Sumatra island, to lower its sound system because it was too loud and “hurt” her ears.

In a decision posted to its website Monday, the Supreme Court said that it had rejected her appeal, but did not elaborate further.

Indonesia, which has the world’s biggest Muslim population, is officially pluralist with six major religions recognised, including Hinduism, Christianity and Buddhism. Freedom of expression is supposed to be guaranteed by law.

But criticising religion — particularly Islam, which is followed by nearly 90 percent of Indonesia’s 260 million citizens — can land offenders in jail.

Meiliana’s comments more than two years ago triggered riots that saw angry Muslim mobs ransack Buddhist temples.

Some ethnic Chinese in the area fled in fear.

The case fuelled fears that Indonesia’s moderate brand of Islam is coming under threat from increasingly influential radicals.

Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), Indonesia’s largest Muslim group, said the woman’s comments should not have been considered blasphemous.

Rights groups have long campaigned against the nation’s blasphemy laws, which they say are frequently misused to target minorities.

Last year Jakarta’s former governor — the city’s first Christian leader of Chinese descent — was sentenced to two years in jail for blasphemy.

There are hundreds of thousands of mosques across the Southeast Asian archipelago nation, with the five-times-a-day call to prayer heard everywhere in the biggest cities and smallest towns.

Vice President Jusuf Kalla made a plea in 2015 for places of worship to turn down the volume slightly to placate nearby residents.

British Police Probe Attacks On Mosques In Birmingham

Britain Flag

 

A sledgehammer-wielding man was seen smashing windows at two mosques in Britain’s second city Birmingham and three more have been similarly vandalised overnight, the police said Thursday.

Counter-terrorism officers are investigating attacks on the mosques in different areas in the central English city, West Midlands Police said in a statement.

The force added the incidents were “being treated as linked”.

“We don’t know the motive for last night’s attacks,” said Chief Constable Dave Thompson in a statement.

“The force and the counter terrorism unit are working side-by-side to find whoever is responsible.”

Officers were first alerted in the early hours of Thursday to reports of a man smashing windows with a sledgehammer at one of the places of worship, police said.

Following reports of a similar attack at another mosque in a nearby neighbourhood, officers launched targeted patrols and discovered “further damage” at two other sites.

A fifth mosque later reported that windows had been smashed.

“Forensic officers are working to identify evidence, and CCTV is being examined,” the West Midlands force added.

Some 22 percent of the Birmingham population described themselves as Muslim in the 2011 census.

British national police chiefs last week announced officers were providing “reassurance patrols” around mosques in the immediate aftermath of Friday’s deadly gun rampage at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Anti-racism groups have warned that Islamophobia is on the rise in Britain and spurring a spike in far-right activity in the country.

A report released last month by the Hope Not Hate charity cited a poll which found more than a third of Britons see Islam as “generally a threat to the British way of life”.

In another recent incident, Mohammed Mahmoud — an imam who won praise for shielding the perpetrator of a 2017 deadly terror attack against a north London mosque — reported he was spat at and abused this week.

Mahmoud said he was targeted Monday while returning home from a solidarity event for the New Zealand massacre with other religious leaders, as well as interior minister Sajid Javid and London Mayor Sadiq Khan.

AFP

49 Killed In New Zealand Mosque Attack

A police officer secures the area in front of the Masjid al Noor mosque after a shooting incident in Christchurch on March 15, 2019.  Tessa BURROWS / AFP

 

Attacks on two Christchurch mosques left at least 49 dead Friday, with one gunman — identified as an Australian extremist — apparently live streaming the assault that triggered the lockdown of the New Zealand city.

In what appeared to be the worst attack against Muslims in a western country, witnesses spoke of victims being shot at close range, with women and children believed to be among those killed.

“It is clear that this can now only be described as a terrorist attack,” said Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, saying it marked “one of New Zealand’s darkest days”.

“From what we know, it does appear to have been well planned,” she said, adding that in addition to the dead another 20 people were seriously injured.

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The gunman at one mosque was an Australian-born citizen, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in Sydney, describing him as “an extremist, right-wing, violent terrorist”.

It was not immediately clear how many attackers were involved, but Ardern said three men had been taken into custody.

Two IEDs (improvised explosive devices) were also found and neutralised by the military, police said.

A Palestinian man who was in one of the mosques said he saw someone being shot in the head.

“I heard three quick shots, then after about 10 seconds, it started again. It must have been an automatic — no one could pull a trigger that quick,” the man, who did not wish to be named, told AFP.

“Then people started running out. Some were covered in blood,” he said, adding that he joined the fleeing crowd and managed to escape.

Local media reported at least nine people were dead.

Video and documents circulating online — but not officially confirmed — suggested the shooter had streamed his attack on Facebook Live.

AFP has examined the footage, which has subsequently been taken down. Journalists experienced in verification techniques said it appeared to be genuine.

New Zealand police described it as “extremely distressing” and urged web users not to share it.

A manifesto had also been posted online on accounts linked to the same Facebook page, suggesting the attack was racially motivated.

A number of pictures were posted to a social media account of a semi-automatic weapon covered in the names of historical figures, many of whom were involved in the killing of Muslims.

Police, who initially imposed a city-wide lockdown, sent armed officers to a number of scenes.

‘Darkest day’ 

An ashen-faced Ardern told reporters the attacks had been “an extraordinary and unprecedented act of violence”.

“It is clear that this is one of New Zealand’s darkest days,” she said.

Forty-one of those slain were at the Masjid al Noor in central Christchurch, police said. Seven more were killed at the Linwood Ave mosque, three of them outside the building. It is unclear where the remaining victim died.

The two mosques are about five kilometers apart. It was not clear if the same gunman was involved at both sites.

One witness told stuff.co.nz he was praying when he heard shooting — and then saw his wife lying dead on the footpath outside when he fled.

Another man said he saw children being shot.

“There were bodies all over,” he said.

An eyewitness told Radio New Zealand that he heard shots fired and four people were lying on the ground, with “blood everywhere”.

Police warned Muslims all over the country not to visit mosques “anywhere in New Zealand”. Friday is Islam’s holy day.

Christchurch city council offered a helpline for parents looking for kids attending a mass climate change rally nearby.

The Bangladesh cricket team — which had been in Christchurch for a test match against New Zealand that was later cancelled — all escaped without injury.

A spokesman said the attack happened as some of the players got off a team bus and were about to enter the mosque.

“They are safe. But they are mentally shocked. We have asked the team to stay confined in the hotel,” he told AFP.

Mass shootings are rare in New Zealand, which tightened its gun laws to restrict access to semi-automatic rifles in 1992, two years after a mentally ill man shot dead 13 people in the South Island town of Aramoana.

However, anyone over 16 can apply for a standard firearms licence after doing a safety course, which allows them to purchase and use a shotgun unsupervised.

Christchurch, a relatively small city in the south of New Zealand, hit global headlines in 2011 when it was struck by a deadly earthquake.

Dozens of people died and the city’s historic cathedral was toppled in the disaster.

Grenade Attack Kills Two At Southern Philippines Mosque

Belongings are seen inside a mosque in Zamboanga city on the southern island of Mindanao on January 30, 2019, after a grenade attack. A grenade attack on a mosque in the troubled southern Philippines killed two people early on January 30, 2019, authorities said, just days after a deadly Catholic cathedral bombing and a vote backing Muslim self-rule. STR / AFP

 

 

A grenade attack on a mosque in the troubled southern Philippines killed two people early Wednesday, authorities said, just days after a deadly Catholic cathedral bombing and a vote backing Muslim self-rule in the region.

The blast tore through the building as the victims were sleeping in the predawn darkness on the insurgency-plagued island of Mindanao, which is home to the Philippines’ Muslim minority.

Blood-streaked prayer mats and shattered glass could be seen on the floor inside the mosque where heavily armed security forces were standing guard, footage from the scene showed.

The blast came as the Catholic-majority nation was on high alert after a cathedral bombing claimed 21 lives at Sunday mass in an assault claimed by the Islamic State.

Two people were killed and four others wounded in the mosque attack in Zamboanga City, authorities said, adding they had no indication so far it was retaliation for the cathedral bombing.

READ ALSO: Five Dead, 130 Missing As Migrant Boats Sink Off Djibouti – IOM

“We’re still looking at it, but we have not found any connection,” Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told reporters. “In the past when churches were bombed… there were no revenge attacks.”

Authorities have not publicly identified any suspects and no one has claimed responsibility for the mosque attack.

‘Pray for peace’

Security forces are also hunting for the bombers behind the cathedral assault on the overwhelmingly Muslim island of Jolo, which security forces initially said was not a suicide bombing.

However, on Tuesday President Rodrigo Duterte contradicted them saying one of the bombers had blown himself up outside the cathedral.

On Wednesday Lorenzana appeared to walk back the president’s comments, saying: “The final conclusion is not there yet. It’s still being investigated.”

The probe was zeroing in a group tied to the notorious Islamist kidnap-for-ransom group Abu Sayyaf, which has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State.

Police said they tried to arrest one of the suspects on Tuesday, but he got away and an armed man was shot dead by officers in the process.

The attacks have cast a shadow over hopes that voters’ decisive push to give Muslims in the south more control over their own affairs would help quell long-running separatist violence.

Rebels and the government in Manila have expressed hope the new so-called Bangsamoro area will finally draw the investment needed to pull the region out of the brutal poverty that makes it a hotspot for recruiting radicals.

However, hardline factions aligned with IS were not part of the decades-long peace process with the nation’s largest separatist group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, that culminated January 21 with the resounding approval of a new Muslim led-region in the south.

Jolo, which is home to hardline Islamist factions, is the only area in the southern Philippines that voted against the Bangsamoro.

The grenade attack on Wednesday drew immediate condemnation from authorities.

“There is no redeeming such blasphemous murder. It is the highest form of cowardice and obscenity to attack people who at prayer,” said regional leader Mujiv Hataman.

“We call on people of all faiths… to come together to pray for peace.”

Woman Jailed For Complaining About Mosque Noise In Indonesia

12 Killed In Bali Village Landslide In Indonesia

 

A woman in Muslim-majority Indonesia was sentenced to 18 months in jail Tuesday for complaining about the volume of a mosque’s call to prayer — the latest conviction under a controversial blasphemy law.

Meiliana, 44, an ethnic Chinese Buddhist, was found guilty of insulting Islam for asking her neighbourhood mosque to lower its sound system because it was too loud and “hurt” her ears.

There are some 800,000 mosques across the archipelago, with the five-times-a-day call to prayer heard everywhere in the biggest cities and smallest towns.

Tuesday’s verdict will likely fuel fears that Indonesia’s moderate brand of Islam is coming under threat from increasingly influential radicals.

The court in the city of Medan on Sumatra island said the woman’s comments two years ago triggered riots that saw angry Muslim mobs ransack Buddhist temples.

Some ethnic Chinese in the area fled in fear.

The defendant’s lawyer said his client would appeal the decision.

Indonesia, which has the world’s biggest Muslim population, is officially pluralist with six major religions recognised, including Hinduism, Christianity and Buddhism. Freedom of expression is supposed to be guaranteed by law.

But criticising religion — particularly Islam, which is followed by nearly 90 percent of Indonesia’s 260 million citizens — can land offenders in jail.

Rights groups have long campaigned against the nation’s blasphemy laws, which they say are frequently misused to target minorities.

Last year Jakarta’s former governor — the city’s first Christian leader of Chinese descent — was sentenced to two years in jail for blasphemy.

Vice President Jusuf Kalla made a plea in 2015 for places of worship to turn down the volume slightly to placate nearby residents.

AFP

Two Stabbed To Death In South Africa Mosque

A police vehicle stands in front of the mosque following a stabbing attack that left two worshippers dead and the attacker shot by the police on June 14, 2018, in Malmesbury, an agricultural town about 50Km north of Cape Town. PHOTO: RODGER BOSCH / AFP

 

A man stabbed two people to death and wounded two others in an attack at a mosque in South Africa on Thursday, before being shot dead by police, officers said.

Police have surrounded the building in Malmesbury near Cape Town outside which a body lay under a tree and a penknife had been discarded nearby, said an AFP correspondent at the scene. The attacker’s motive remains unclear.

It comes just a month after a deadly stabbing at another South African mosque which police said had “elements of extremism” and left an Islamic leader dead.

Police were alerted by early morning worshippers and arrived at Malmesbury’s mosque to find two people had died of stab wounds, Noloyiso Rwexana, spokeswoman for the Western Cape police, told AFP.

Two other people were wounded and are being treated in hospital.

“The suspect believed to be in his thirties and armed with a knife, charged at the police who tried to persuade him to hand himself over,” she said.

“He ignored the calls and tried to attack police. He was shot dead.”

Rwexana said police are now “combing the scene for clues”.

Local media said the suspect was Somali, but police have not confirmed this.

The Muslim Judicial Council (MJC), which represents the Muslim community in South Africa, said it was “shocked to the core” over the incident, which came at the end of the holy month of Ramadan.

‘Way too soon to speculate’

The MJC appealed to the community to not jump to conclusions about the attacker’s motives and said its top leadership would travel to the area to assist the community.

It comes a month after an attack at a mosque in the town of Verulam, on the outskirts of the eastern port city of Durban.

Three unidentified assailants killed a Mosque leader on May 10 by slitting his throat and injured two others after midday prayers.

The assailants in that attack, who also set off a petrol bomb inside the mosque, escaped in a car and remain at large.

Their motive remains unclear, but a police spokesman said at the time that the attack had “elements of extremism. It shows hatred towards the worshippers”.

The Verulam attack was a watershed moment for South Africa, where about 1.5 per cent of the country’s 55 million population is Muslim.

Asked if Thursday’s attack was the first of its kind in the region, police spokesman lieutenant colonel Andre Traut said: “I can’t recall of another incident, but all possibilities are being investigated”.

“It’s way too soon to speculate as to a possible motive — or link with any other incident in the country,” he told the eNCA broadcaster.

The country prides itself on religious tolerance and has been spared the extremist attacks that have dogged other countries on the African continent.

Neighbouring Mozambique has been rocked by a wave of attacks blamed on jihadists in recent months.

Since October around 30 people have been killed with knives and machetes in the country’s far north, a region that has been earmarked as a potential hub for natural gas exploration.

AFP

Three Feared Dead As Gunmen Attack South African Mosque

Mob Burns Nigerian To Death In South Africa

 

Attackers armed with guns and knives struck a mosque in the South African city of Durban on Thursday, slashing the throats of three people and seriously injuring them, a private security company told AFP.

“Eyewitnesses said three attackers with guns had used knives to slit the victims’ throats. One knife was left behind,” Prem Balram, spokesman for Reaction Unit South Africa said, speaking from the scene.

AFP

Mosque, Shops, Attacked In Anti-Muslim Riots In Sri-Lanka

A Sri Lankan policeman guards a mosque in Sri Lanka’s capital Colombo on March 9, 2018, amid fears that anti-Muslim riots in the central region of Kandy could spread to other areas of the island/ AFP

Sri Lankan police said petrol bombs were hurled at a mosque on Thursday as hundreds of troops patrolled a troubled central district where anti-Muslim violence has left three people dead.

Muslim-owned businesses were set on fire and vandalised in several parts of Sri Lanka, police said, days after an island-wide state of emergency was imposed to curb riots in Kandy.

Police announced 85 people had been arrested for rioting in the hill district, including the leader of a radical Sinhalese Buddhist group known for agitating against Muslims.

“We have arrested 10 key suspects, including Amith Weerasinghe, who orchestrated and led these attacks,” police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera told reporters in Colombo, adding that another 75 were detained.

Armoured vehicles and heavily-armed troops guarded Kandy, the epicentre of the violence where internet services remain suspended and an evening curfew is in place.

The government ordered the internet blackout after police discovered mobs of Sinhalese rioters were using social media to coordinate attacks on Muslim establishments.

More than 200 homes, businesses and vehicles have been torched in three days of violence by mobs from the mainly Buddhist Sinhalese majority.

A 24-hour curfew was imposed on Wednesday afternoon after a hand grenade exploded in the hands of an attacker, killing him and wounding 11 others, officials said.

The day-time curfew was eased following a calm night but schools were shuttered as tensions remain high in the tourist hotspot.

In Kuruvita, 125 kilometres (78 miles) south of Kandy, police said petrol bombs were lobbed at a mosque. Little damage was inflicted and three suspects are being pursued.

In Weligama, 240 kilometres south of Kandy, a Muslim-owned business was attacked, police said, while Muslim establishments were pelted with stones in at least two other locations outside Kandy.

Sri Lanka’s telecoms regulator asked internet providers to block access to Facebook and other social media platforms to prevent the spread of anti-Muslim hate speech.

Police have already identified anti-Muslim messages being shared on social networks, including a video posted by a hardline Buddhist monk urging violence against Muslims.

Muslims in Kandy complained that security forces and police — equipped with special powers to detain under the emergency provision — were slow to react as the violence unfolded.

“The main junction is going up in flames. At the same time, the authorities are folding their arms and watching,” said Muslim businessman M. Jaffer, as quoted in Thursday’s DailyFT newspaper.

– Appeals for peace –
Former Sri Lankan cricket captain Kumar Sangakkara alluded to the island’s history of ethnic violence in urging his countrymen “to say no to racism”.

“We have to make sure that in Sri Lanka anyone and everyone feels safe, loved and accepted regardless of ethnicity or religion,” he said in a video posted to Twitter.

President Maithripala Sirisena toured Kandy on Wednesday and ordered security forces to use the full force of the law against troublemakers.

Military officials said more reinforcements were sent to the area on Wednesday night to assist police who resorted to teargas to disperse rioters the previous evening.

The United Nations has condemned the violence and urged Colombo “to ensure that appropriate measures are swiftly taken to restore normalcy in affected areas”.

The Kandy region, 115 kilometres (72 miles) east of the capital Colombo, is popular with tourists as well as Buddhist pilgrims.

“Shops are opening, and more people can be seen on the roads since the curfew was lifted,” a police official in the area said by telephone.

Holidaymakers have been urged to avoid the hill resort, which is home to Sri Lanka’s holiest Buddhist shrine, the Temple of the Tooth Relic.

The chief custodian of the UNESCO-listed temple, Pradeep Nilanga Dela, said foreign tourists and pilgrims were flocking to the shrine despite the tensions.

The unrest began Monday after a Sinhalese man died following injuries sustained at the hands of a Muslim mob last week. Conflict escalated when a Muslim man was found dead in a burnt building on Tuesday.

Sinhalese Buddhists are the majority ethnic group in Sri Lanka, making up 75 percent of its 21 million people. Muslims make up 10 percent of the population.

Parliament on Tuesday issued an apology to the island’s Muslim minority for the latest violence targeting them in the Indian Ocean island.

Mobs also set fire to Muslim-owned businesses and attacked a mosque in the east of the country last week. Last November riots in the south of the island left one man dead and homes and vehicles damaged.

In June 2014 riots between Buddhists, led by radical monks, and Muslims left four dead.