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Last Updated: Thursday, 29 April, 2004, 11:42 GMT 12:42 UK
Fatal riot in central Sri Lanka
Police in central Sri Lanka have opened fire to try to break up rioting sparked by tension between local Tamil and Sinhalese communities.

At least two people have been killed - the cause of their deaths is not clear.

A curfew has been imposed in the area - the tea-growing region around the town of Kandapola - and the army has been rushing reinforcements there.

Correspondents say the area has been largely unaffected by Sri Lanka's prolonged civil war.

'Shops set alight'

One report says the overnight rioting between the two communities in Kandapola was triggered by an argument over a traffic accident.

Local Tamils "set fire to Sinhalese-owned shops and caused damage to police vehicles. Houses were also burned," senior police official Wimal Ariyaratna told the Reuters news agency.

"Police tried to stop it without shooting, but we couldn't. Two bodies were found at the scene. We don't know how many are injured because they are afraid of police arrest if they come for treatment," Mr Ariyaratna said.

Tamils are in the majority in the area.

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse has been visiting the riot scenes.

Tens of thousands of people have died in the prolonged civil war between Tamil Tiger rebels and the Sri Lankan military.

However, a ceasefire has been holding now for more than two years.


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