BBC news reports the ordered removal of a mosque in the central town of Dambulla, Sri Lanka. The mosque is in an area apparently considered sacred by the majority Buddhist community. The removal is in response to Buddhist monks and other locals having stormed the mosque in protest:

Prime Minister DM Jayaratne says the mosque has simply been ordered to relocate to another part of the area.

But the incident has angered senior Muslim politicians.

The BBC’s Charles Haviland in Colombo says this statement by the prime minister appears to have been issued in a hurry, a day before the various parties to this religious dispute were due to meet.

Buddhist monks in central Sri Lanka had threatened to demolish the mosque next week if the authorities did not act first. A special meeting to discuss the issue appears to have been convened on Sunday, and this statement was produced.

The statement listed four prominent Muslims as present at Sunday’s meeting agreeing to relocate the mosque – but according to a weekly Muslim paper, three of them say they were not there.

Cabinet minister AHM Fowzie told the BBC he had not been to such a gathering. He added that it would be acceptable to request such a relocation but not to order it.

Another politician of the governing party, Azath Sally, said that even if the mosque were illegal, people opposed to it should not “act like thugs”.

“Do Tamils and Muslims not have a right to live in this country now?” he added.

Locals have said that this mosque was a “previously small structure [that] is now being illegally expanded”. The mosque’s chief explains that the building is legal and is being refurbished.

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