Sri Lankans Buddhists protest mosque
Thousands of Buddhist monks and lay supporters stormed a mosque in Sri Lanka on Friday, saying it was an illegal construction inside a designated Buddhist sacred zone.
About 2,000 protesters, including 300 monks, shouted slogans in the central town of Dambulla. They tore down a signboard before police intervened and stopped them.
One monk, Akmeemana Dayaratna, told The Associated Press that the mosque and a Hindu temple are illegal constructions inside a Buddhist zone and must be demolished.
Mohammed Mustafa, a 39-year-old Muslim worshipper, said that the mosque has been there for decades and is legal.
About 7 percent of Sri Lanka's 20 million people are Muslims. About 74 percent are Sinhalese, who are mostly Buddhists, while about 18 percent are Tamils, who are predominantly Hindus or Christians.
Buddhism is the state religion of Sri Lanka, and Buddhist monks are influential over the public and government.