Police in Sri Lanka have arrested a key figure from an extremist Buddhist organisation blamed for a series of hate crimes against Muslims that has drawn international censure.
The 32-year-old man from the radical Bodu Bala Sena (BBS), or Buddhist Force, is the first suspect to be arrested in connection with arson attacks against Muslims that have stoked religious tensions.
Police spokesman Priyantha Jayakody said investigations were continuing into 16 “major incidents” of arson since April that hit Muslim homes, businesses, mosques and a cemetery.
Police were criticised for failing to bring the radical Buddhist group to heel by capturing its fugitive ringleader Galagodaatte Gnanasara, as the minority Muslim community endured attacks with stones and petrol bombs. The BBS was accused of instigating religious riots in mid-2014 that left four people dead but escaped prosecution under the then-strongman president Mahinda Rajapakse.