Tamil-Muslim tension eases in eastern Sri Lanka
Police had imposed curfews both Wednesday and Thursday in the town of Akkaraipattu, 365 kilometres (228 miles) east of Colombo, to prevent Muslim-Tamil clashes after a Muslim man was snatched, allegedly by Tamil rebels. The Tamil Tigers have denied any involvement in the incident
COLOMBO: Two days of communal tension over the kidnapping of a Muslim man ended peacefully Friday in eastern Sri Lanka, after what the government said was an attempt to derail the peace process with Tamil rebels.
Police had imposed curfews both Wednesday and Thursday in the town of Akkaraipattu, 365 kilometres (228 miles) east of Colombo, to prevent Muslim-Tamil clashes after a Muslim man was snatched, allegedly by Tamil rebels. The Tamil Tigers have denied any involvement in the incident.
Police said they conducted cordon-and-search operations across government-controlled areas in the east and Thursday evening found the man, Seeni Mohamed Abdul Wajeed, after he was released. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said the kidnapping had been meant to scuttle his drive to broker peace with the Tigers.
“The timely intervention of troops in maintaining law and order prevented an attempt to spark communal clashes aimed at derailing the government’s peace initiative,” said a statement from Wickremesinghe’s office.
In separate communal violence last week in eastern Sri Lanka, three people were killed and 34 wounded in a grenade attack. The violence broke out after police shot dead seven Tamil men who tried to storm a commando base, in the worst violence since the government and rebels signed a ceasefire in February.
Scandinavians monitoring the truce have accused the Tigers of violating the agreement through truce abductions, but said the incidents were not serious enough to jeopardise the peace process.
The government and the guerrillas held peace talks in Thailand in September and are expected to hold a second round of negotiations later this month.
The Norwegian-sponsored peace drive is aimed at ending three decades of ethnic bloodshed that has claimed more than 60,000 lives. There is a history of tension between the island’s Tamils and Muslims, who in Sri Lanka are regarded as a separate ethnicity.
The Tigers in April apologised to Muslims who had been driven out of their homes in rebel-controlled areas and invited them to return. —AFP