What happened in Aluthgama, a verified account
Updates: For more updated accounts of the violence in Aluthgama see : After three days of tensions, calm sets over Aluthgama
Tensions flared up in Aluthgama, leaving 80 people injured with at least seven people admitted to hospital with gunshot wounds. Three people have died according to Justice Minister Rauff Hakeem. This is a rundown of what happened, gathered from social content and mainstream news reports.
- Tensions broke out last week in Aluthgama, after reports of a Muslim man allegedly attacking a monk and several others. Tear gas was used to control protests. Three were arrested. A vehicle of a minister, Kumara Welgama, who visited the area was also attacked.
- Extremist group Bodu Bala Sena held a rally in Aluthgama on Sunday. Its leader, Galagodaaththe Gnanasara, questioned the heavy police presence in the area. “This country still has a Sinhalese Police, this country still has a Sinhalese Army. It will be the end of all [Muslims] if a Muslim at least lays a finger on a Sinhalese,” he said.
- The Bodu Bala Sena then proceeded to the Dharga Town area by a vehicle convoy. People in the area pelted stones at the convoy, triggering clashes. Several were injured.
- Police declared curfew after clashes started, and deployed police and Special Task Force personnel to control the situation. Curfew which was initially held in Aluthgama then extended to the Beruwala police area, and will be in place till further notice, according to the Police Media Spokesman. Police and Special Task Force reinforcement were reportedly brought in from multiple police stations in the region.
- Several Muslim-owned shops in the area have been torched. Ground reporters have described seeing heavy clashes.
- Telephone lines in Aluthgama were reportedly disconnected, whilst rail and road services were also disrupted.
- Meanwhile footage showed armed personnel carriers and newly-imported water cannons being brought to the Aluthgama area.
- Deputy Minster Faizer Mustapha, who played a pivotal role during the previous tensions in Colombo, was trapped inside Naleemia Islamic School, as mob surrounded the premises. Special Task Force was on the ground attempting to secure the Deputy Minister’s safety. (Update: See Reuters report on the minister being trapped)
- In a seemingly related incident Harcourts Pharmacy in Dehiwala has been pelted with stones, with minor damages to the shop front. No torching as suggested by earlier reports.
- President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who is in Bolivia attending the G77 summit, called for restraint via his twitter account and said those who are responsible for the violence would be held accountable.
- Sri Lanka Muslim Congress and other Muslim organisations expressed concern, and called on the Muslim community to remain peaceful. MP Athureliye Rathana Thero of the JHU have similarly called for calm saying that ‘its easy for extremist groups of any kind to play on the insecurities of people’.
- Bodu Bala Sena says the organization was protesting peacefully when they came under attack. BBS spokesman Dilantha Vitanage told Reuters that the incident was “unfortunate” and should not have happened. “There are damages and casualties to both the parties” he said.
- Meanwhile NewsFirst Reports that approximately 80 people have been injured in the clashes with at least seven people with gunshot injuries.
- BBC Sinhala has published a video that captures the situation in Aluthgama. Curfew is now in force from Aluthgama to Beruwala, unverified reports of clashes continued to emerge.
- The Incident is being treaded on very lightly by Mainstream media with the only detailed account appearing on the DailyFT. Most english dailies only carry the story about the curfew, no mention of the incident on DailyNews.
- Police curfew continues in Aluthgama and Beruwala areas according to reports.
- Verified reports say at least two people have died from the incident, with the Justice Minister Rauff Hakeem putting the death count at three persons in a comment to the BBC.
- A distraught Rauff Hakeem says he is considering resigning from the government.
— Azzam Ameen (@AzzamAmeen) June 16, 2014
- Several reporters are on the ground now in Aluthgama, they continue to post updates via Twitter. BBC’s sinhala service has the most comprehensive pictures and videos of the incident.
— dharisha (@tingilye) June 16, 2014
— Dinouk Colombage (@Dinoukc) June 16, 2014
For continued coverage of this story see Aftermath of Sunday’s Violence in Aluthgama
Editor’s Note: Whilst there is a no media blackout as yet, the amount of information flowing through the newspapers and television channels seem to be limited. We took the picture from BBC Sandeshaya. An earlier version of this story linked to Muslim families finding communal safety. This was subsequently removed due to difficulties in ascertaining the authenticity of the photo.