Sri Lanka has blocked access to some social media networks and messaging platforms amid a rise in acts of violence targeting Muslims following a series of bloody bombings that hit hotels and churches in the country on Easter.
The Sri Lankan government said on Monday that it was temporarily blocking social media services and messaging applications, including Facebook and WhatsApp, after a spate of attacks against mosques and Muslim-owned businesses.
The country’s leading mobile phone operator Dialog also said on Twitter that it had been instructed to block the apps Viber, IMO, Snapchat, Instagram and Youtube until further notice.
Reuters cited sources as saying that several dozen people stoned mosques and shops owned by Muslims on Sunday, while a Muslim man was beaten in the Christian-populated town of Chilaw amid a dispute that broke out on Facebook.
A number of arrests were also made on Sunday and Monday in connection with the anti-Muslim assaults.
A curfew had been imposed overnight in the Christian-majority areas to “control the situation,” according to the police.
The Muslim Council of Sri Lanka said several mosques and Muslim homes had been damaged in the attacks, which security experts say bear the hallmarks of the Takfiri Daesh and al-Qaeda terror groups.
There has been a rise in such acts of violence since April 21, when coordinated bomb attacks hit churches and luxury hotels in the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo and two other cities, killing at least 253 people.
In the aftermath of the deadly blasts in Sri Lanka, Muslim groups say they have received dozens of complaints from across the island country about people from the community being harassed at workplaces, including government offices, hospitals and in public transport.
The Muslim communities inside Sri Lanka and elsewhere in the world have roundly condemned those terror attacks.
Sri Lankan police have blamed the so-called Nations Thawahid Jaman (NTJ) for the Easter bombings. The local group’s founder Zahran Hashim — who is suspected to have masterminded the bloodshed — blew himself up at a hotel in Colombo on the day of the carnage.
The NTJ has not claimed responsibility for the bombings so far. Instead, Daesh has. The terror outfit released footage of eight men whom it said had carried out the attacks in Sri Lanka. The video could not be independently verified, and Sri Lankan officials said they were investigating it.
Authorities in Sri Lanka have arrested a Saudi-educated preacher over links with the suspected mastermind of bombings last month, throwing a spotlight on the role of Salafi-Wahhabi terrorism in South Asia.
Police announced the apprehension of Mohamed Aliyar, who had a close relationship with the NTJ founder, on Saturday. They said the Saudi national — who had founded a religious center in Zahran’s hometown of Kattankudy on Sri Lanka’s eastern shores — had been “involved” in training the bombers behind the Easter attacks.
Reuters cited two Muslim community sources in Kattankudy as saying that Hashim’s hardline views were partly shaped by ultra-conservative Salafi-Wahhabi texts that he picked up at the center’s library around 2 or 3 years ago.
Salafism is closely linked to Wahhabism which has its roots in Saudi Arabia and is backed by its rulers. The radical ideologies have been the main source of inspiration for the Takfiri Daesh and al-Qaeda terrorists and their affiliates.