The Latest: Sri Lanka orders social media networks blocked

Sri Lankan police officers stand guard in Ambatenna, in central Sri Lanka, Wednesday, March 7, 2018. Sri Lanka's president declared a state of emergency Tuesday amid fears that anti-Muslim attacks in several central hill towns could spread. The emergency announcement came after Buddhist mobs swept through the towns outside Kandy, burning at least 11 Muslim-owned shops and homes. (AP Photo/Rukmal Gamage)
Sri Lankan police officers stand out side a vandalized Buddhist Temple in Poojapitiya, in central Sri Lanka, Wednesday, March 7, 2018. Sri Lanka's president declared a state of emergency Tuesday amid fears that anti-Muslim attacks in several central hill towns could spread. The emergency announcement came after Buddhist mobs swept through the towns outside Kandy, burning at least 11 Muslim-owned shops and homes. The attacks followed reports that a Buddhist man had been killed by a group of Muslims. (AP Photo/Rukmal Gamage)
Sri Lankan police officers attempt to douse burning shops in Ambatenna, in central Sri Lanka, Wednesday, March 7, 2018. Sri Lanka's president declared a state of emergency Tuesday amid fears that anti-Muslim attacks in several central hill towns could spread. (AP Photo/Rukmal Gamage)
Sri Lanka's security forces stand near a vandalized building in Digana, a suburb of Kandy, Sri Lanka, March 6, 2018. Buddhist mobs swept through the town on Monday, burning at least 11 Muslim-owned shops and homes. Sri Lanka's president declared a state of emergency Tuesday amid fears that anti-Muslim attacks in the central hill town could spread. (AP Photo/Pradeep Pathiran)

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — The Latest on religious violence in Sri Lanka (all times local):

2:30 p.m.

An internet company official says the government has ordered popular social media networks blocked across a swathe of central Sri Lanka in an attempt to stop the spread of religious violence.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity under company policy, said the networks, including Facebook, Instagram, Viber and WhatsApp, were blocked in the central hills, scene of the violence. Outside of that region, though, many people were also unable to access the social media sites.

The government order came as anti-Muslim rioting flared anew, with Buddhist mobs attacking mosques and Muslim-owned shops in at least two towns.

Anti-Muslim riots began Monday after a Buddhist Sinhalese man died after reportedly being attacked by a group of Muslim youths.

Sri Lanka has long been divided between the majority Sinhalese, who are overwhelmingly Buddhist, and minority Tamils who are Hindu, Muslim and Christian.

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