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Sri Lanka police probe fire at Muslim-owned clothing store

COLOMBO -- Sri Lankan police were investigating a fire Saturday that destroyed a Muslim-owned clothing store in a district where religious tensions were heightened after anti-Muslim riots killed four people and wounded 80.

The authorities had not ruled out arson at the upmarket No-Limit store in Panadura, 25 kilometers (16 miles) south of Colombo, police spokesman Ajith Rohana said.

“We are looking at the possibility of arson as well as an accidental fire,” Rohana told AFP. “The fire started in the upper floor and we are still investigating.”

He said workers had carried out some electrical repair work the previous day. There were six people at the store, including two unarmed guards at the time of the pre-dawn fire, he said.

The authorities tightened security in the area following the fire.

Witnesses said they heard several explosions as the fire completely gutted the two-storey building.

The fire came a day after Sri Lanka's Muslim minority held shortened Friday prayer services because of heightened religious tensions after clashes with hardline Buddhists earlier in the week in Kalutara district.

The district includes Panadura and the popular and mainly Muslim coastal resorts of Alutgama and Beruwala, where religious riots earlier in the week killed four and wounded 80.

The Muslim Council of Sri Lanka said Islamic clerics instructed mosques to conduct shorter services and asked the faithful to disperse peacefully after lunchtime prayers on Friday.

Muslim-owned businesses shut down in Sri Lanka's capital on Thursday to protest against the riots by extremist Buddhists, defying President Mahinda Rajapakse's plea to stay open.

Shops and restaurants in central Colombo were shuttered following the riots at the resorts in which hundreds of homes and businesses were set on fire.

In March last year, two Muslim-owned clothing stores, including No-Limit, came under attack from Buddhist mobs.

Muslims account for about 10 percent of the 20 million population in the mainly Buddhist country.

1 Comment
June 25, 2014    karthik@
These terror sinhala Buddhist militant groups was established in 2011 by sri lankan defense secretary to attack minorities in sri lanka including Muslim
Christians and tamil Hindus, they like to go offence with military but they changed tactics and created Buddhist militant groups because of current human rights abuse against innocent.
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