Sri Lanka imposed a curfew in a central town popular with tourists after days of unrest between Muslim and Buddhist communities when a Buddhist man was killed and Muslim businesses were set ablaze.
Police said on Monday there had been riots and arson attacks since the weekend in Kandy district, while Al Jazeera reported the violence was spreading throughout the South Asian island nation.
Police officers were placed on heightened alert in Kandy to ensure the “situation does not spiral into inter-communal conflagration”, the government said in a statement.
Mobs set fire to Muslim-owned businesses and attacked a mosque in the east of the country.
According to reports, more than two dozen suspects had been detained by police in connection with the spate of arson attacks.
“Social media pages rallied Sinhalese mobs to assemble in Teldeniya town at 10am. At 11am, there was a proclivity for violent confrontations to take place as mobs gathered. The destruction of Muslim properties started taking place from around 1pm,” Sources told Al Jazeera.
Najah Mohamed, secretary of the National Front for Good Governance party in Sri Lanka, told Al Jazeera attacks are spreading all over the country, not just in Kandy.
“We are facing the same situation that we had experienced with the previous government with tension, hate, and violence against Muslims are rampant especially where they are a dispersed community,” said Mohamed.
Religious and ethnic violence can turn deadly in Sri Lanka, where Muslims account for 10 percent of the population and Buddhists Sinhalese make up nearly 75 percent.
Some observers blame the hardline group Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) for the ongoing violence.
“The violent BBS mobs manipulated the situation to fuel attacks against Muslims in an unprecedented way and started attacking people. In the afternoon the police and curfew were here, but there are still rising underreported incidents taking place,” Mohamed said.
Religious violence is not new to the island. An anti-Muslim campaign was launched following the deadly Aluthgama riots in June 2014.
President Maithripala Siresena had vowed to investigate anti-Muslim crimes after assuming power in 2015, but no notable progress has been reported.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe is yet to make an official statement on the recent unrest.