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KANDY: A man looks at a burnt home on Wednesday, a day after anti-Muslim riots erupted.—AFP
KANDY: A man looks at a burnt home on Wednesday, a day after anti-Muslim riots erupted.—AFP

KANDY: One person was killed and several others injured in an explosion on Wednesday evening, as the government struggled with the risk of communal tension escalating in the hill capital for the third consecutive day. A 24-hour police curfew was re-imposed in the district from 4pm until Thursday.

The explosion took place in an area called Pujapitiya in Kandy. The ethnicity of the deceased was not immediately clear. Police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekara said it was not certain if the explosive was a grenade or not.

Moreover, mobs torched Muslim-owned businesses in Kandy on Wednesday as hundreds of police and troops struggled to restore order after days of rioting.

Meanwhile, leaves of all police personnel have been cancelled until further notice on the instruction of the inspector general of police.

Under the state of emergency declared by President Maithripala Sirisena on Tuesday, the military is enabled with sweeping powers to conduct cordon and search operations anywhere and carry out arrests.

The historical district, a much-loved tourist spot, was dominated by fear of the cycle of violence continuing amid reports that mobs in certain areas were lying in wait to carry out attacks. Schools in the district remains closed until further notice.

Meanwhile, the Telecom Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka has begun monitoring social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter, Viber, WhatsApp and YouTube as part of the government’s effort to prevent the spread of ethnic and religious based hate speech.

Sirisena rushes to Kandy

Meanwhile, in a bid to calm the unrest in Kandy, Sirisena rushed to the riot-torn district on Wednesday and held a special meeting with all religious and political leaders and officials, urging them to bring peace back to the Buddhist heritage city.

The Buddhist Mahasangha, led by the Anunayaka Theros of Malwatte and Asgiriya chapters, and Muslim, Hindu and Catholic religious leaders took part in the discussion alongside, ministers, government officers, and chiefs of security forces.

The Sri Lankan president appealed to all gathered to avoid divisive statements and actions. The religious leaders pointed out that exaggeration of minor incidents through various social media platforms had been a main reasons for the conflict.

Published in Dawn, March 8th, 2018