Colombo (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Sri Lanka's police arrested 49 people over deadly anti-Muslim riots in the south part of the country, at the hand of Buddhist hardliners. Both Buddhists and Muslims were arrested during a police crackdown overnight.
A curfew was also lifted in the mainly-Muslim towns of Beruwala and Alutgama, where followers of the extremist Buddhist Brigade, or Bodu Bala Sena (BBS), went on rampage.
Hundreds of troops have been deployed to help police contain the violence, which erupted after a BBS mob last June 15. Residents have said authorities did little to stop the violence, which saw dozens of shops and houses torched by mobs armed with guns, petrol bombs and knives.
"While appealing for calm and peaceful relations between the communities, we urged the authorities to enforce the rule of law, investigate the incidents and bring the perpetrators to justice ", said in a statement Iyad Madani, Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), one of the world's top Islamic bodies.
The Bodu Bala Sena is a radical Buddhist movement, whose mission is to "protect" the Sinhalese Buddhist community.
The Sinhalese are Sri Lanka's main ethnic group (73.8 per cent), followed by Tamils (about 8 per cent).
Buddhism is the country's official religion and is practiced by 69.1 per cent of the population. Islam is the second largest religion (7.6 per cent), followed by Hinduism (7.1 per cent) and Christianity (6.2 per cent).