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Muslim Sri Lankan ministers resign in protest over terrorism accusations

Eight Muslim officials in Sri Lanka have stepped down from their posts in solidarity with another minister, accused by the opposition of ties to the group behind the lethal Easter Sunday bombings that killed over 250 people.

The ministers quit their posts on Monday in a show of solidarity with Rishad Bathiudeen, who had resigned his post as industry minister earlier in the day.

Bathiudeen’s resignation preempted the planned no-confidence motion against him, introduced by the opposition. The motion accused the minister of providing ammunition to a factory owned by one of the suspects in the April 21 bombings, and pressuring the army to release several suspects arrested after the attacks, among other things. The opposition offered no evidence to back up these claims.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s governing coalition appears to be safe for the time being, as all eight officials will remain members of parliament.

“We will not leave the government – we will protect the government,” Rauff Hakeem, who resigned as minister of city planning, water supply and higher education, said in a statement Monday.

Muslims and Christians combined make up less than 20 percent of Sri Lanka’s population, which is overwhelmingly Buddhist. A wave of anti-Muslim sentiment has swept the country in the wake of the Easter attacks. In May, violent mobs tore through communities in the country’s North Western Province, vandalizing mosques and leaving one man dead. The government has since introduced curfews in an attempt to address the violence.

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