Protesters attack Yoga Day event in Maldives

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MALE, Maldives, June 21 (Reuters) - Police in the Maldives used tear gas and pepper spray to control a crowd of people who disrupted a yoga event organised by the Indian High Commission, or embassy, in the capital Male on Tuesday morning, an organiser said.

The crowd stormed a stadium where more than 150 people, including diplomats and government officers, were taking part in an event celebrating International Day of Yoga, attacking participants and vandalising the property, one of the organisers, who did not want to be named because he was not authorised to speak with the media, told Reuters.

Earlier, the protesters brandished placards proclaiming that yoga was against the tenets of Islam.

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Islam is the state religion in the Maldives, a group of islands in the Indian Ocean with a population of about half a million.

Police responded with anti-riot measures and later used pepper spray and tear gas to control the crowd and secure the area, Superintendent of Police Fathmath Nashwa told Reuters.

Six people have been arrested in connection with the incident, Nashwa said.

Maldives President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih said a police investigation into the incident had begun.

"This is being treated as a matter of serious concern and those responsible will be swiftly brought before the law," Solih said on Twitter.

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Reporting by Mohamed Junayd in Male, writing by Shilpa Jamkhandikar; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan

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