Cablegate: Sri Lanka: Muslim-Sinhalese Riot in Colombo

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.





E.O. 12958: DECL: N/A
SUBJECT: Sri Lanka: Muslim-Sinhalese riot in Colombo
leaves one dead; tensions continue to smolder

1. (U) This message is Sensitive but Unclassified --
Please handle accordingly.

2. (SBU) On the afternoon of October 30, a riot erupted
in Maligawatte, a northern suburb of Colombo, between
Sinhalese and Muslim residents. The initial dispute
reportedly began when Sinhalese locals protested against
the start of construction of what was apparently a
mosque. One person died during the riot, reportedly
from a rubber bullet fired by the police, and
approximately 20 others were injured. A number of
vehicles and buildings (included the home of one FSN)
were reported burnt down. The police imposed a curfew,
and the military assisted in enforcing it, from 4pm
October 30, until 6am the following morning. As of late
afternoon October 31, confrontations between the two
communities continued; the police have imposed another
curfew. The clash between the Muslims and Sinhalese
does not appear linked to the peace process.

3. (SBU) One American citizen (Amcit), a Mission Warden,
residing in Maligawatte phoned Conoff on the afternoon
of October 30 advising him that rioting was taking place
outside his home and that rioters were breaking into
surrounding houses. Conoff kept the Amcit on the line,
calming him, while the RSO coordinated with local police
to ensure protection of the property. The police
guarded the house for the remainder of the night and
withdrew the next morning. There was no reported damage
to the Amcit's residence after the police arrived;
windows were broken earlier in the day.

4. (U) Mission sent the following message to the
American Community through the Warden Network on October


Riots broke out today between Muslim and Sinhalese
faction in the Maligawatte section of greater Colombo.
There have also been clashes reported in the Borella
section. Police have rerouted traffic northbound out of
Colombo, toward the airport, through Kaduwela and across
the Kaduwela Bridge, about 15 miles southeast of
Colombo. Traffic through this area is very heavy.
Police have announced a curfew in those areas and the
surrounding areas. The army has deployed to restore
order in the Maligawatte area. Spontaneous riots could
start in other areas.

The Embassy urges all Americans in Sri Lanka to abide by
any local curfew. Because violence might erupt quickly,
we urge you to be especially aware of what is going on
around you. If violence erupts in your area, you should
remain in your homes, if possible. Please feel free to
contact the Embassy (448-601) if you see violence erupt
in your area. The Embassy will send other messages as
the situation develops.



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