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  • Sri Lankan military stand guard outside a mosque after clashes between two sectarian groups in a beachside resort in Poruthota village in Negombo, Sri Lanka May 6, 2019.

    Sri Lankan military stand guard outside a mosque after clashes between two sectarian groups in a beachside resort in Poruthota village in Negombo, Sri Lanka May 6, 2019. | Photo: Reuters

Published 6 May 2019

After the deadly Easter Sunday attacks, Sinhalese and Muslims clashed in Sri Lanka without major injuries but high tension remains. 

Sri Lanka police arrested two men after a personal feud led to clashes between Sinhalese and Muslims in a beachside resort north of the capital, the site of one of the deadliest Easter Sunday suicide bombings, as schools reopened to near-empty classes.

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Two weeks after 257 people were killed by extremist militants in hotels and churches across the country, police were hunting plotters on the loose as fears grew of ethnic clashes targeting Muslims.

Islamic State Group has claimed responsibility for the bombings, while the government blamed the attacks on a barely known Islamist group. 

Police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera said a clash Sunday between two individuals in Negombo, where 102 people attending an Easter service were killed on April 21, quickly escalated.

Some Catholics and Muslims clashed, prompting an overnight curfew in Negombo.

Witnesses saw at least one shop, an office, three motorbikes, and three three-wheel taxis had been damaged. Gunesekera said there were no reports of any serious injuries.

Archbishop of Colombo Malcolm Ranjith and some Muslim religious leaders visited the area to try to defuse the tension and asked liquor shops to be closed.

Sri Lanka’s 22 million population is mostly Buddhist but includes minority Christians, Muslims, and Hindus.

A brief ban on social media platforms imposed during the clash was lifted, but authorities said they would stay alert for threats against Muslims.

Security remained tight across the country as state schools resumed classes Monday.

Mid-to-upper stream classes resumed Monday, a day after soldiers conducted a security sweep of schools. Lower grades are expected to resume on May 13.

Despite the tight security and military patrols, most classrooms were near empty. Private schools, including Catholic institutions, remained closed.

Security forces are on high alert after intelligence reports indicated militants could strike before the start of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, which is due to begin Monday.

Muslim schools will be closed for the holidays.

Archbishop Ranjith, who has criticized the government’s handling of security around key establishments, has asked for Catholic schools in the Western Province, which includes Colombo and its suburbs, to close this week.

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