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10-day emergency imposed in Sri Lanka over communal violence

Witnesses say recent clashes are reminiscent of 2014 attacks by hardline Buddhist nationalists

Sri Lanka imposed a curfew Monday in a central hill station town popular with tourists after days of communal unrest that saw a man killed and Muslim businesses set alight.

"At a special cabinet meeting, it was chose to declare a state of emergency for 10 days to prevent the spread of communal riots", government spokesman Dayasiri Jayasekara said.

Ruwan Gunasekera, a police spokesman, told Anadolu Agency that a personal dispute was the initial trigger and police curfew was declared to bring the situation under immediate control.

Hakeem said the riots were concentrated in Kandy - home to famous tea plantations and Buddhist relics - but the government wanted to send a strong message given outbreaks of communal violence elsewhere recently. "I urge residents to remain calm and act with reason". Tension has been growing between the two communities over the past year, and it took the violent turn on Monday.

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The government said it was imposing the state of emergency after police failed to curb violence in Kandy, where mobs of Sinhalese burned mosques, homes and businesses belonging to Muslims.

Sri Lanka as a whole has always been divided between the majority Sinhalese, who are overwhelmingly Buddhist, and minority Tamils who are Hindu, Muslim and Christian. "But a state of emergency must not become a pretext for further human rights abuses", he said.

Amnesty has also called on the Sri Lankan authorities to take action against those responsible for attacks on the country's Muslim minority. Another 13 percent of the population are Hindus.

More than two dozen arrests have been made and an inquiry opened into police conduct in Kandy, just the latest region to be plagued by religious and ethnic conflict. At least one mosque was damaged overnight.

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