Asia-Pacific

Buddhist attacks leave at least four dead in Sri Lanka

Sri Lankan police stand guard by a roadside following clashes between Muslims and an extremist Buddhist group (AAP)

A Buddhist monk's threat to obliterate predominantly Muslim towns in Sri Lanka has lead to deadly riots in the majority Buddhist nation.

More deadly violence has flared in a Sri Lankan coastal resort where Buddhist hardliners set shops and homes alight for a second night running in defiance of a curfew, police and residents say.

Amid mounting international concern over the unrest, residents of a town which has borne the brunt said a security guard was killed in an attack outside a Muslim-owned farm, raising the overall toll to four.

"More than a dozen houses and shops have been burnt overnight," a police source said from the mainly Muslim town of Alutgama after another night of mob violence by followers of the extremist Buddhist Force.

Hundreds of soldiers have been deployed to help police put a lid on the violence.

Although the unrest on Monday was not as widespread as the previous night, it came despite the announcement of an indefinite curfew.

Residents said that several vehicles had also been set alight in Alutgama although there were no reports of fresh violence in the neighbouring town of Beruwala where property was also set on fire on Sunday.

Police said that the curfew would remain in force although residents would be given a four-hour window to stock up on provisions till noon.

The authorities say nearly 80 people have so far been seriously injured in clashes while many more have suffered minor injuries.

Dozens of homes, shops and mosques have been partially or completely destroyed.

The most senior Muslim member of President Mahinda Rajapakse's government threatened on Monday to resign at the decision to allow militant Buddhists to rally in the flashpoint region on Sunday.

The fighting erupted after a prominent Buddhist monk threatened to obliterate the predominantly Muslim towns in the majority Buddhist nation.

The UN human rights chief Navi Pillay expressed concern that the riots could spread to other areas and demanded that Colombo immediately bring the perpetrators of Sunday's attacks to justice.

"The government must urgently do everything it can to arrest this violence, curb the incitement and hate speech which is driving it, and protect all religious minorities," Pillay said in a statement.

The United States, which has led international condemnation of Sri Lanka's human rights record, had also urged Colombo to end the violence.

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