A Sri Lankan resident surveys the damage to a charred Muslim-owned home following clashes between Muslims and an extremist Buddhist group in the town of Alutgama. (AFP Photo)
More deadly violence flared in a Sri Lankan coastal resort where Buddhist hardliners set shops and homes alight for a second night running in defiance of a curfew, police and residents said on Tuesday.
Amid mounting international concern at the unrest, residents of a town which has borne the brunt said an unarmed security guard was killed in an attack outside a Muslim-owned farm, raising the overall death toll to four.
"More than a dozen houses and shops have been burnt overnight," a police source told AFP from the mainly Muslim town of Alutgama after another night of mob violence by followers of the extremist Buddhist Force.
Western embassies in Colombo advised their nationals holidaying in the area to stay indoors, while other foreigners were urged to avoid crowded areas and respect the curfew.
In Welipanna, a suburb of Alutgama, residents said nine houses and 26 shops were destroyed overnight by a mob of 50 to 60 men armed with guns, petrol bombs and knives.
Local school principal, A. R. M. Nahuman, said residents had pleaded with authorities to provide more police protection but to little avail.
"There were only three constables and they were quite helpless in the face of the big mob," Nahuman told AFP, while showing the destruction.
Service station owner Abdul Kafar, 60, said the attackers fire-bombed his business as well as his home.
"We have lost everything. We lived here for 25 years, but never experienced anything like this before," said Kahar as he stood among the charred remains of his home.
Chicken farm owner Hijasin Mustapha, 31, said attackers set fire to his warehouse after stabbing an elderly unarmed security guard.
"They first stabbed our watcher and another worker and then set fire to the stores," Mustapha said.
The attacks are the latest in a series of religious clashes to hit the island following unrest in January and also last year when Buddhist mobs attacked a mosque in the capital Colombo.
Muslims make up about 10% of the 20 million population, but are accused by nationalists of having undue influence.
As armed troops and police guarded the area on Tuesday, residents huddled in some of the homes spared from the overnight violence.
Hundreds of soldiers have been deployed to help police contain the violence. Although the unrest on Monday was not as widespread as the previous night, it came despite the announcement of an indefinite curfew.
Residents said several vehicles had also been set alight in Alutgama. While sporadic attacks were reported in several neighbourhoods on Tuesday morning, police said the situation was under control by afternoon.
A curfew which was lifted for four hours to allow residents to stock up on supplies was reimposed at noon (0630 GMT).
The authorities say nearly 80 people have so far been seriously injured in clashes while many more have suffered minor injuries. Dozens of homes, shops and mosques have been partially or completely destroyed.
The most senior Muslim member of President Mahinda Rajapakse's government threatened on Monday to resign in protest at the decision to allow militant Buddhists to rally in the flashpoint region on Sunday.
The fighting erupted after a prominent Buddhist monk threatened to obliterate mainly Muslim towns in the majority Buddhist nation.
UN human rights chief Navi Pillay expressed concern the riots could spread to other areas and demanded Colombo immediately bring the perpetrators of Sunday's attacks to justice.
"The government must urgently do everything it can to arrest this violence, curb the incitement and hate speech which is driving it, and protect all religious minorities," Pillay said in a statement.
The United States, which has led international condemnation of Sri Lanka's human rights record, had also urged Colombo to end the violence.