Sri Lankans protest mosque in Buddhist sacred area

Thousands of Buddhist monks and lay supporters have protested the construction of a mosque and a Hindu temple being built in an area designated as a Buddhist sacred zone.

Local journalist Kanchana Ariyadasa says about 2,000 protesters, including 300 monks, shouted slogans and waved the Buddhist flag Friday in the central town of Dambulla.

Monk Inamaluwe Sri Sumangala Thera said that the construction area was inside the Buddhist sacred zone and that erecting houses of worship for other religions there was illegal. He demanded the authorities stop the construction immediately.

About 7 percent of Sri Lanka's 20 million people are Muslims. About 74 percent are Sinhalese, who are mostly Buddhists, while about 18 percent are Tamils, who are predominantly Hindus or Christians.