US urges SLanka to protect religious minorities after Buddhist hardliners attack Muslims

The Associated Press
June 17, 2014 11:22 AM

WASHINGTON - The United States on Tuesday urged Sri Lanka's government to protect religious minorities and their places of worship after hard-line Buddhists launched deadly attacks on Muslims.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki also called on the government to conduct a full investigation and bring those responsible for the violence to justice.

Sri Lankan authorities said three Muslims were killed and dozens wounded overnight Sunday in the island nation's southwest. A mob from Bodu Bala Sena, or Buddhist Power Force, which rails against the country's Muslim minority, launched the attacks. The group has been gaining followers and is believed to enjoy state support.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa has promised an investigation into the violence.

Psaki said the U.S. was concerned by "inflammatory rhetoric" that incited the violence.

"We also urge all sides to refrain from violence, exercise restraint and respect the rule of law. The United States government continues to stand by the many millions of Sri Lankans who want a peaceful and unified country," Psaki told reporters.

Sri Lanka is still deeply scarred by its quarter-century civil war that ended in 2009 between the Buddhist Sinhalese majority and ethnic Tamil rebels, who are largely Hindu. Buddhist-Muslim violence has been relatively rare.

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