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Sri Lanka deploys troops after Muslim store attacked

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Sri Lankan troops and police commandos were deployed near the capital Thursday after an angry mob stormed a clothing store, officials said, in the latest in a wave of attacks targeting minority Muslims.

The mob comprising hundreds of Buddhist hardliners attacked a showroom of the Fashion Bug clothing chain outside Colombo late evening, setting merchandise on fire and smashing several vehicles parked outside, witnesses told AFP.

"The situation is now under control," a police officer at the scene told reporters.

At least one employee of the Muslim-owned store was rushed to hospital with a head injury along with several journalists and photographers who were wounded as the mob tried to grab their equipment.

Religious tensions have been running high in the nation emerging from nearly four decades of deadly ethnic strife that has claimed at least 100,000 lives.

Hardline Buddhists from the ethnic Sinhalese majority have vowed to take on what they called extremism of the Muslim minority in the country.

The latest attack came a day after Sri Lankan police set up a hotline to tackle complaints about anyone suspected of "inciting religious or racial hatred".

Buddhist hardliners last month forced Islamic clerics to withdraw "halal" certification from food sold in the local market saying it was offensive to the majority non-Muslim population.

President Mahinda Rajapakse, who is a Buddhist, urged monks earlier this year not to incite religious hatred and violence.

The United Nations estimates that Sri Lanka's ethnic civil war claimed at least 100,000 lives between 1972 and 2009, when Tamil rebels were crushed in a major military offensive.

Less than 10 percent of Sri Lanka's population of 20 million are Muslim. The majority are Sinhalese Buddhist, while most Tamils are Hindu.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130328/sri-lanka-deploys-troops-after-muslim-store-attacked