Sri Lanka police arrest 49 over religious riots

ALUTGAMA, June 18, 2014 (AFP) – Sri Lanka’s police arrested 49 people overnight over deadly anti-Muslim riots in a tourist region where Buddhist hardliners have set shops and homes ablaze, a senior officer said Wednesday. Both Buddhists and Muslims were arrested during a police crackdown in the southern resort towns, where two nights of violence have left four people dead, the officer said.

“We have already arrested 49 and remanded 25 of them and further arrests will take place today,” Sri Lanka police spokesman Ajith Rohana told AFP.

A curfew was also lifted in the mainly-Muslim towns of Beruwala and Alutgama, where followers of the extremist Buddhist Force, or BBS, went on the rampage on Sunday and Monday nights.

Hundreds of troops have been deployed to help police contain the violence, which erupted after a BBS mob marched in Alutgama on Sunday, with clashes breaking out as it claimed its procession was stoned by Muslims.

Residents have said authorities did little to stop the violence, which saw dozens of shops and homes torched by mobs armed with guns, petrol bombs and knives.

The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, one of the world’s top Islamic bodies, urged authorities to investigate