Sri Lanka sent troops and elite police to central Kandy district and imposed a curfew there on Monday to prevent clashes between majority Sinhalese Buddhists and minority Muslims after a mob set fire to a Muslim-owned shop.
Renewed tension has been growing between the two communities since last year, with some hard line Buddhist groups accusing Muslims of forcing people to convert to Islam and vandalising Buddhist archaeological sites.
Elite Police were deployed in Teldeniya in Kandy district 160 km (99 miles) from the capital Colombo to control unrest after the attack on a Muslim-owned shop late on Sunday.
The attack took place following the death of a Sinhalese youth who had allegedly been assaulted by a Muslim mob, a police officer who declined to be named told Reuters news agency.
Sudarshana Gunawardena, director general of the Government Information Department, said the “police curfew was imposed in the Kandy district until Tuesday morning”.
He said in a statement that those who violated law and order would face stern action.
“The police were put on alert to ensure that the enforcement of the law proceeds without hindrance and the situation does not spiral into an inter-communal conflagration,” Gunawardena said.
Military spokesman Sumith Atapattu said 200 military personnel has been sent to the unrest area at police request.
Muslims in the area, speaking to Reuters by phone, said some attacks on Muslim-owned properties had taken place after the start of the curfew, which took effect at about 3:00pm local time (09.30 GMT).
Police and some residents said Sinhalese owned properties were also attacked.
Rajith Keerthi Tennakoon, executive director at Center for Human Rights and Research, a non-government organisation, said “police inaction to control the mob from arson attacks was a surprise, and police should take all steps to prevent the spread of ethnic clashes in the area”.