Sri Lanka’s security forces have arrested at least four men reportedly in connection with an attack on a Muslim - owned clothing store in the country’s largest city, Colombo.
According to a statement released by Sri Lanka’s police spokesman Buddhika Siriwardena on Saturday, the four men were linked to Sinhala - Buddhist community. Late on Thursday night, Sinhala - Buddhist hardliners attacked the Muslim - owned Fashion Bug store in the Colombo suburb of Pepiliyana, hurled stones at the place, set merchandise on fire, and smashed vehicles parked outside. At least three people sustained injuries during the attack. Siriwardena added that an investigation is still under way for those who torched and vandalized a section of the store. Official sources said the incident appears to be part of the wave of attacks targeting Sri Lanka’s Muslim population. On Friday, police beefed up security across Sri Lanka and deployed commandos of the elite Special Task Force in Pepiliyana. The Muslim Council of Sri Lanka, an umbrella organization for Sri Lankan Muslim groups, said the Thursday attack marks a new phase in the ethnic violence against the country’s Muslim minority. “It has created a fear psychosis among the Muslims, ” said council president N M Ameen. “We know a majority of the(Buddhist) people do not support this type of activity, ” he added.
Following the attack, the owner of the clothing store issued a statement saying, “We sincerely hope there will be no repetition of such violent attacks on innocent civilians and establishments to disturb peaceful co - existence within Sri Lanka. ”
In January, mobs pelted stones at another Muslim-owned clothing chain near Colombo. Muslim businessmen have also complained of random stone-throwing, intimidation and calls for the boycott of their shops. Earlier this year, President Mahinda Rajapakse called on the Buddhist monks not to provoke religious hatred and violence in the country. Muslims comprise 10 percent of Sri Lanka's population of 20 million.