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Lanka police ban rallies inciting hatred Muslims call off protest over deadly attacks

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka, June 23, (Agencies): Sri Lankan police announced Sunday that they will not allow rallies or marches inciting religious and communal hatred in the future, a week after Buddhist mobs attacked minority Muslims in deadly violence that was condemned by the international community. Last Sunday, a mob led by the group Bodu Bala Sena, or Buddhist Power Force, which rails against the country’s Muslim minority, hurled gasoline bombs and looted Muslim homes and businesses in Kaluatara district, south of the capital, Colombo. The attacks killed three people and injured more than 50. The violence erupted after a rally by Bodu Bala Sena.

Video clips show the group’s general secretary, the Rev. Galagoda Atte Gnanasara, telling the crowd that Muslimowned shops were in danger. Gnanasara later told reporters that the Buddhists were angry over an alleged attack on the driver of a Buddhist monk. Police spokesman Ajith Rohana said that religious rallies or processions will be permitted, but not those inciting communal or religious hatred. Bodu Bala Sena has been gaining followers and is believed to enjoy state support.

Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, Sri Lanka’s powerful defense secretary and the president’s brother, once made a public appearance supporting the group’s cause. Meanwhile, Sri Lankan Muslims called off a planned protest Monday to denounce a series of attacks by Buddhist extremists after police warned their action could further inflame religious tensions.

The Sri Lanka Thawheed Jamaath (SLTJ) said they were calling off their demonstration in the capital as well as a work stoppage after talks with a senior police officer in charge of security in the capital. “As to a request of Senior Deputy Inspector General Anura Senanayake the SLTJ postpones the protest,” the group said on Twitter.

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