Police shoot inside eastcoast Mosque
[TamilNet, Monday, 16 October 2000, 16:08 GMT]
Schools, shops and government offices were partly shut down Monday in the eastern Muslim town of Akkaraipattu, 64 kilometers south of Batticaloa on the southeastern coast of the island, in protest over Sri Lankan Police shooting and wounding five people in the town's main Mosque Saturday midnight. Police in Akkaraipattu claimed that a large crowd that gathered at the town Mosque in response to a special late night muezzin call had attacked a Police patrol, wounding some constables. Police arrested twenty eight persons, including the editor of a news paper, accused of taking part in the attack.
Reinforcements that were sent to the Mosque were compelled to use tear gas and open fire to disperse the crowd and bring the situation under control Police said.
Akkaraipattu Police said that two guns which may have been meant to attack their men were found in the Mosque.
However, the TamilNet's Ampara correspondent who visited Akkaraipattu Monday and spoke to the Mosque trustees and some civilians who were wounded in the Police shooting said that the Muezzin call on Saturday night to summon the Muslims of Akkaraipattu was for the purpose of stopping attacks on United National Party supporters.
The homes of two families that had worked for the UNP were smashed up and about twenty persons were assaulted by members and supporters of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress since the results of the Parliamentary elections were announced on October 11.
UNP leaders in the town had lodged several complaints with the Police about the violence against them. But the Police had not taken action to stop supporters of the SLMC from assaulting and taunting UNPers in Akkaraipattu.
The matter was hence brought to the notice of the Mosque which summoned a general meeting of the town to resolve the issue. The Police, according to UNP sources, had come to the Mosque upon being 'instigated' by the SLMC and demanded those present to disperse immediately.
They pointed out that there were several instances in the past when the Police had indiscriminately opened fire on supporters of the UNP.
Meanwhile, a teacher who was at the Mosque on Saturday night told TamilNet that some of the speakers who addressed the meetings there had lambasted the Police for allegedly colluding with the SLMC and the ruling party to intimidate and terrorise supporters of the UNP in this southeastern coastal town.
The trustees of the Mosque charged that the Police party had defiled the sanctity of the premises by walking in with weapons and without taking off their boots. They said that the Police had opened fire inside the Mosque unprovoked, wounding about five persons.
They showed the stain of blood splattered on the floor of the Mosque where the wounded had fallen. The Akkaraipattu Town Mosque trustees said that the two guns found in the building were in fact issued to them by the Police itself for the protection of the Mosque.
Tension continues in the town residents said.