COLOMBO, Sri Lanka – The European Union expressed alarm Wednesday at recent violence against Muslims in Sri Lanka in which three people died and more than 50 were injured, and urged the government to ensure that the rule of law is upheld.
"Incitement of communal violence and hatred can only be counterproductive to Sri Lanka's stability," the EU delegation in Colombo said in a statement.
Hard-line Buddhists hurled gasoline bombs and looted homes and businesses in attacks Sunday evening in several towns in southwestern Sri Lanka. The attacks were led by a mob from Bodu Bala Sena, or Buddhist Power Force, which rails against the country's Muslim minority.
The group has been gaining followers and is believed to enjoy state support. Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, Sri Lanka's powerful defense secretary and the president's brother, once made a public appearance supporting the group's cause.
Muslim residents say armed mobs broke into their houses and burned them after stealing jewelry and money.
Associated Press journalists who visited the attacked towns saw dozens of shops gutted, and motorbikes and bicycles piled up and set on fire. Residents said mosques were also defaced.
A curfew imposed on the towns after the violence was lifted Wednesday.
Galagoda Atte Gnanasara, the leader of Bodu Bala Sena, said the Buddhists were angry over an alleged attack on the driver of a Buddhist monk.
Sri Lanka is still deeply scarred by its 1983-2009 civil war between the Buddhist Sinhalese majority and ethnic Tamil rebels, who are largely Hindu, but Buddhist-Muslim violence has been relatively rare.
The U.S. Embassy in Colombo on Monday condemned the violence and urged restraint by all sides.