COLOMBO, June 30 The United States cancelled the
visa given to a Sri Lankan Buddhist monk heading a hardline
group accused of involvement in violence against Sri Lanka's
minority Muslims, an official of the group said on Monday.
Clashes erupted on June 15 in Aluthgama and Beruwela, two
towns with large Muslim populations on the island's southern
coast, during a protest march led by the hardline group Bodu
Bala Sena (BBS), or "Buddhist Power Force".
Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara, a Buddhist monk and the secretary
general of the BBS, had been told of the decision, the official
"An official from the U.S. Embassy called Gnanasara thero
(monk) on Friday and informed him that the State Department
wants to convey him that he cannot use his existing visa to
enter the United States," BBS spokesman Dilantha Vithanage told
Reuters by telephone.
A U.S. Embassy spokesman in Colombo said the U.S. government
would not comment on individual visa cases.
The State Department's decision came after BBS on Friday
said Facebook accounts of its group's members, including
Gnanasara, had been blocked.
Many residents of the towns, thronged by tourists, said BBS
activists had made inflammatory statements against Muslims at a
rally before the violence. Much of the coast is dominated by Sri
Lanka's majority Buddhist Sinhalese community.
The group denies any connection with the incidents, in which
three people died and 75 were injured.
Violence against Muslims in Sri Lanka has risen since 2012,
mirroring events in Myanmar, which has seen a surge of attacks
by members of the majority Buddhist community on Muslims.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa's coalition government has yet
to crack down on the BBS despite calls from his own party.
Many independent analysts say well-coordinated violence
against Muslims and Christians appears to have tacit state
backing as those involved in previous attacks have yet to be
punished. The government denies any collusion.
The separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam attacked
Muslim villages in the northeast during the civil war from 1983
to 2009. More than 140 people were killed in a massacre of
Muslims in 1990 blamed on the Tigers, which the group denied.
(Reporting by Ranga Sirilal and Shihar Aneez; Editing by Nick